Faculty Initiative in Creating
an e-Learning Newsletter
L a n d L L o n i n e
A Story about Community
Elaine McCullough, Ph.D.
Ferris State University
Big Rapids, Michigan
Ferris State University
Department of Languages and Literature
Big Rapids, Michigan
Ph.D., M.A., B.A.,
Northern Illinois University
Katherine Harris Lynn Chrenka
Ph.D. Florida State University
Newly elected members
Ph.D. Michigan State University
M.A. University of Nebraska of the department’s newly created M. A. University of Michigan
B.A. St. Mary's College of California
Online Teaching Committee B.A. University of Michigan
Elaine McCullough Dan Noren
Ph.D. University of New Mexico
D.M.L. Middlebury College
M.A. California State University,
Linda Sherwood M.A. University of Wisconsin
Visiting Assistant Professor and B.A. North Park College
B.A. Northeastern State University
The Precipitating Incident
What to make of a committee that is only the
second of its kind on campus and that has no
precedent in Languages and Literature?
We are free to create the story of
The Online Teaching Committee…
The story begins…
As the newly elected committee chair, I walk to
the second meeting, still percolating ideas about
how the committee might define itself.
I do know we need to gather and disseminate
information about online issues.
Jody, Katherine, and I are on other online
learning committees around campus, so we are in
a good position to gather information.
It also occurs to me that almost everyone in
Languages and Literature is a writer….
Therefore, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get people
in the department to write about online issues….but
how should we disseminate the information?
Hummm… Not everyone in L&L is fully onboard
with the idea of fully online teaching.
So to appeal to everyone, the committee should
choose a familiar, somewhat conservative medium, I
I am almost to the meeting room before I put it all
The newsletter has such a format.
I know newsletters. I once had a small desktop
publishing company and have successfully created,
edited, and published newsletters.
During the second meeting of the OTC, the
members quickly agree to the publication of
a newsletter three times a semester.
L a n d L L o n i n e
As the committee and department
members begin writing newsletter articles,
we soon realize we are also writing
a story of community…
At the bottom of this and the next few slides, you may click on the link
to see the five editions of the newsletter the OTC has published so far.
The newsletter results in a marked increase of faculty-
to faculty communication within the department
about online learning.
Dr. Robbie Teahen Associate VP for
Academic Affairs, is the first to call us
in Languages and Literature a
―community of learners‖ when she
announces she is distributing our third
newsletter at a mid-April Higher
Learning Commission Conference.
In two peer-review sessions attended by
over 500 participants from 19 states, she
uses L and L on Line as an example of
what HLC teams should look for in
terms of good university practices.
The newsletter also helps the OTC see the need for
more lateral—vs. top-down—communication about
online issues across campus.
After I mention the OTC’s interest in promoting lateral
communication throughout campus about online
issues, Dr. Teahen asks me to discuss the newsletter
with chairs of the other departments, some of whom
then implement ways their own faculty can
communicate about online issues. (Not all departments
are full of writers!)
The OTC now invites members of other
departments and colleges to submit articles
to L and L onLine.
Charles Bacon, PhD, Professor of
Physics and Chemistry, Physical
Sciences Department, inaugurates
the guest column with an article
whose tongue-in-cheek title is…
―YOU CAN’T DO LABORATORY
The OTC’s interest in increased campus-wide
communication among faculty who teach
online leads to the OTC’s initiative,
Let’s Get It Together, a series of workshops
in which faculty help each other go through
Ferris’ Online Instructor Certification
Let’s Get It
By completing this process, faculty add to not
only the quality but the quantity of those
teaching online at Ferris.
Let’s Get It Together, October 2, 2009. 32 attendees and 8 facilitators,
from various departments and colleges
At Let’s Get It Together (back to front) Rebecca Sammel, PhD from
Languages and Literature, David Aiken, PhD from Humanities
Department, and Bill Smith, PhD from the College of Business
As Land L on Line continues, it also becomes clear that a vibrant
community of faculty who are teaching online is essential if
the interface between online technology and the pedagogy
of a particular field is to be understood and shared.
Here and there, faculty within Ferris departments have been sharing
ideas for how to best teach their courses effectively within the constraints
of Ferris’ online course program, FerrisConnect (a version of
Blackboard), but we do not find a concerted effort to bring particular
pedagogies to bear on the available technology, except where our sister
committee resides, in the Humanities Department.
In the Humanities Department, History Area’s
Online Learning Committee has been exemplary in
making the pedagogy-technology connection…..
Under the guidance of Dr. Kimn
Carlton-Smith, the OLC was formed in
The committee’s charge reads, in part:
―Any faculty interested in teaching
online should approach the committee as
a means to ask for advice about any
questions concerning instructors’
workload, online pedagogy, Best
Practices, as well as asking for
mentoring advice while they develop
their online course. ―
With increased communication among faculty, as has
occurred in History and is now occurring in L&L….
Faculty can learn how to
teach certain courses
from other faculty who
teach the course—in
addition to how to teach
online courses in general
from Ferris’ Faculty
Bill Knapp, Coordinator of Instructional Center for Teaching and
Technology, FCTL, and co-facilitator of
Let’s Get It Together
In an outstanding example of how faculty help faculty apply
technology to their own pedagogy, Jody Ollenquist, OTC’s
workshop coordinator, presents the workshop “Responding
to Student Writing Online.”
In L and L on Line, Jody writes, ―We discussed a variety of
ways to respond to student work electronically–including
scanning hand-graded work into PDF files and using
MS Word review functions such as comment, track
changes, and highlighter.
―We also covered using onscreen scoring sheets and
rubrics, both within and outside FerrisConnect, and
shared rubric samples/templates as well as links to rubric
The Continuing Story…
The OTC believes that we in the emerging community of
online learners at Ferris have a heightened awareness of how
our own online teaching contributes to the overall success of
Ferris: with our new sense of community, our sense as
stakeholders in the university has increased.
But for us in L&L, a lot of the story is about the writing….
Please read on for excerpts from the newsletter.
Douglas Haneline, PhD
As I see it, the Internet provides us teachers
with a great opportunity to extend our
teaching skills and expand the learning
experience of our students. No medium is
perfect, or always faultlessly reliable. But we
know that anyway—it’s why we take
handouts to class along with our memory
sticks. By starting with mixed delivery
courses and constantly experimenting, I was
able to develop an Internet pedagogy. I
learned to use multiple and complementary
instructional media, and not just for back-up
purposes. And finally, learning to use new
instructional technology has been fun as well
as useful. At whatever stage you are in your
teaching career, it’s worthwhile to expand
your teaching repertoire.
Katherine Harris, OTC Past Member
A student powers up her computer in anticipation of taking a
test for her online class. After the operating system initializes,
she logs on to her class site and navigates to the test module.
Before she can take the exam, she must “certify” her identity
with a thumbprint reader. Then the timed test opens while
software prevents her from opening any other browser
windows. The pièce de résistance? A 360˚ camera records
everything in the room, making sure she is unaided in her efforts
This scene is not from a bad science fiction novel doing its 1984
Big Brother impersonation. A “biometric” system very much like
this is being used to ensure student identity with some of Troy
University’s online classes, and still other systems are being
deployed at similar institutions with a large online presence.
Rebecca Sammel, PhD
“The Trails and Tribulations of
Technology Users at Ferris”
I once got a student paper that
mentioned repeatedly the “trails
and tribulations” of the protagonist.
I liked that spin on the threadbare
cliché so much that I use it now,
often in conjunction with that other
cliché, “back in the saddle.” For the
struggle with FerrisConnect and
MyFSU is a torturous trail fraught
with tribulations… (“Forum”)
Jody Ollenquist, OTC Member
How much work does Internet teaching take
compared to face-to-face courses? Most Lang.
and Lit. faculty who teach online estimate that,
compared to an on-ground class of 23, a fully-
online class of 15 requires roughly the same
time and effort — or somewhat more.
However, they also agree that managing the
workload of online teaching is less about the
general amount of labor we invest than about
significant changes in how and when we work.
Elizabeth Stolarek, PhD
The first time I actually
considered looking into online
teaching was while driving to
Flint in a blizzard to give a
two-hour essay exam. I
realized that all my students
were driving in the same
blizzard—all of us risking our
lives for the opportunity to sit
together in a computer lab,
completing a task that could
easily have been done in the
comfort and safety of our own
Linda Sherwood, OTC Member
Without a set day and time to meet, students can easily
forget about an online course, but features built into
Ferris Connect, and most course management systems,
can help professors track down those missing students
with just a few clicks of the button.
….Tracking tools can help instructors determine when
students are logging into class, how long they are
spending, and where they are going. These tracking tools
can do more than help instructors make sure students
are attending their virtual classrooms. Analyzing
student patterns can help instructors improve delivery
and organizational methods.
It's an exciting time to be
teaching online at Ferris
because we are answering hard
questions and discovering new
possibilities while technology
continues to advance. With the
advent of conferencing
software such as WebEx and
lecture recording software such
as Tegrity, the question
ultimately may end up being
not "Online or face to face?" but
"What blend do you prefer?"
Dan Noren, OTC Member
“Language was invented so that men [people]
could conceal their thoughts.” Some might be
inclined to say that Michel de Montaigne came
to that conclusion after teaching a totally
online world language course and was giving
his students the benefit of the doubt
concerning their real language acquisition.
Teaching a totally online language course
seems to be pushing the envelope, like teaching
a pilot how to fly in a simulator, but never
letting the pilot get into a real airplane.
Roxanne Cullen, PhD
When we have the luxury of being able to decide
ourselves to say yes or no to adding a course to
our fully online curriculum, I hope we will first
consider what the benefit is to student learning,
and I phrase that specifically in opposition to
saying the benefit to the student. There are
some very obvious benefits to student learning
that can be inherent to fully online courses. We
need to consider what the differences are
between the fully online versus the mixed
delivery or face-to-face in relation to student
learning objectives. Are there outcomes that are
better achieved in the online environment?
Student convenience is different from student
learning, and I suspect we’d all agree that our
first concern should be student learning.
Lynn Chrenka, OTC Member
Confession, I’ve heard, is good for the soul. So here goes. . . .
When I returned to the classroom full time four years ago, I
knew very little about the digital course management tools
Ferris made available to faculty. I had heard of WebCT, but I had
never used it (or anything like it). Along with my Ph.D., I had
earned a “humanities computing certificate” that introduced me
to the wonders of the Web-based instruction. I had created a
digital portfolio and an “online” assignment for an imaginary
course, but that’s it. I also learned that the adage “use it or lose
it” applies more to digital tools than almost anything else, so
when a Ferris colleague offered to show me the basics of WebCT,
I jumped at the opportunity. She assured me that she could
show me what I needed to know in a couple of hours, and she
added me to one of her current online courses so I could watch it
operate. This “low impact” exposure turned out to be just what I
needed to take the next step.
Robert von der Osten, PhD
I love hybrids. I don’t mean the cars; I mean
werewolves, graphic novels, and mixed media art
installations. Frankly, I get a little squeamish at the
idea of being squeezed into ticky-tacky little boxes
such as face-to-face, online, blended, and enhanced.
As a result, I wasn’t especially disturbed when I
learned that to graduate with a degree from our
program, an English B.A. student who had relocated
to San Francisco needed to complete the LITR 416:
Literary Theory course I was teaching as a face-to-
face class. Since it seemed unreasonable to expect
the student to commute (Do they have plane-
pools?) and I didn’t really want to teach an
independent study online, I sought a way to
integrate Amanda, the San Francisco student, into
my current class.
….Instead of five students in a face-to-face class and
five online, with the inevitable administrative
consequence that everyone would be shoved into
the online class, we could have a face-to-face/online