SLN Faculty Development Program Description
SLN Faculty Development and Instructional Design Staff
Alexandra M. Pickett – SLN Associate Director provides leadership and direction to SLN’s
comprehensive and award-winning faculty development program.
Robert Piorkowski: Assistant Director of Online Learning – manages production and operations of SLN
faculty development and campus-based MID community professional development activities.
Phylise Banner: Sr. Online Instructional Designer
Vacancy: Sr. Online Instructional Designer
Steve Mann: Lead Instructional Designer
Vacancy: Instructional Technologist
James Harris: Coordinator of Training and Communications
William Pelz: (online faculty & consultant) SLN Lead New Faculty Trainer
Steve Keeler: (online faculty & consultant) Peer online workshop co-facilitator
Peter Shea: (consultant) Sr. SLN researcher
Extended SLN instructional design team staff: 40+ campus-based IDs from 30+ participating SUNY
Description: The mission of SLN’s award-winning faculty development program is to help participating
SUNY online faculty create technically and instructionally robust online learning environments in which to
teach and learn. In addition, we work with the campuses to develop communities of practice among
faculty, instructional designers, and directors on online learning, and campus-based roles to administer
and institutionalize online programs at the campus level. Specifically, our charge is to develop large
numbers of faculty to teach online and to ensure consistent and effective courses, developed within a
specific time frame. We accomplish this with comprehensive and integrated faculty development and
course/learning design processes that is iterative, designed for continuous improvements, and that views
faculty and their students as adult learners. We avoid cookie cutter mass production of courses by using
a comprehensive 2-way relationship-based support model that allows us extend and branch our reach to
ultimately provide individual support to individual faculty. This model allows us to scale, maintain the
ability to influence the quality and consistency of courses by sharing best practices across the design of
all courses, and to observe and collect best practices and data for further research. Faculty and their
content drive course design while giving us the opportunity to continuously learn and improve our
understanding of effective online teaching and learning. Our processes are organic, ever evolving, and
flexible. This model extends beyond our work with faculty and their courses into processes, procedures,
policy, and application design. We implement scalable and replicable processes to train large numbers of
faculty to produce consistently technically and instructionally sound courses that result in consistent high
levels of faculty retention to the program, and in faculty and student satisfaction. Philosophically we
believe that instructional (learning) design is about creating rich robust teaching and learning
environments with opportunities for interaction with course content, between students, and with the
instructor. Theoretically we take a constructivist approach to learning and our research findings support
the definition of learning as a social process. Our theoretical framework integrates the elements of “How
People Learn,” Bransford, et al (2002); the “Community of Inquiry Model,” Garrison, Anderson, and
Archer (2002); “The Seven Principals of good Practice in Undergraduate Education,” Chickering, and
Gamson (1987); and the elements that comprise a positive sense of classroom community, Rovai (2002),
into the faculty development program for new and experienced online instructors and into our course
design processes, best practices, standards, recommendations, and approaches.
Successful, effective, and satisfied online instructors have the opportunity for reflection, the opportunity to
observe and interact with experienced online faculty and their courses, the opportunity to experiment in
an online environment to explore the student perspective, time to devote to their professional
development, a comprehensive customized professional development plan and guidelines for course
development, institutional support, they are well trained, well supported, have effective course designs on
a robust platform, and demonstrate effective teaching practices in their online course management. Their
online courses are designed to promote a sense of class community, and to cultivate teaching, social,
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and cognitive presences, where there are ample opportunities for interaction and for the social
construction of knowledge in a learner-centered environment.
Faculty Development: Specifically, SLN faculty development consists of a 4-stage faculty development
process and 7-step course design process that include an online “conference” for new faculty, faculty
development/training activities, exemplar courses for observation, membership in a community of practice
now numbering over 3,000 SLN-trained online faculty with organized centrally supported opportunities to
interact, share, and learn from each other. SLN faculty development also cultivates a cadre of exemplar
online faculty and courses that volunteer for standing SLN training programmatic events: courses for
observation, experienced faculty roundtables, QA testers, focus group members, pilot testers, and R&D.
Training over 150 new faculty each term (over 300/year) and over 500 returning faculty per year with over
120 training sessions at 8 training locations around the state of New York with 4 face to face workshops
and an online asynchronous course for new faculty, and an instructional design institute with a changing
topic for returning faculty, the SLN faculty development team reach 800+ faculty per year and consistently
achieve 90% satisfaction with SLN and online teaching and learning from faculty and students. Online
opportunities for training have been added providing additional alternatives and reach of SLN faculty
development activities. Web resources for new and returning online faculty include a comprehensive “how
to” manual for faculty, and access to resources, information, tools, communication hubs, networking
opportunities, models, research, exemplars. To insure that we serve the entire continuum of online
teaching and learning from web-enhanced to full online we are developing a new model for faculty
development that provides multiple access points depending on various factors, that also logically
aggregates training/development in a programmed incremental manner leading from online syllabus to
fully online, that is delivered in multiple formats, via varied delivery mechanisms for maximum flexibility
and reach. Our goal is to model learner-centered andragogical approaches in our new faculty
development program and to develop online faculty that can in turn apply that to their own online teaching
and course designs. Our goal is also to provide the experienced online instructor with opportunities to
share, reflect upon, evaluate and improve their own courses and online teaching and learning
experiences that results in ongoing professional development, membership and participation in a
community of practice, courses that are regularly and consistently reviewed and revised each time they
are taught. Our contact, interaction, and support of this experienced community also help us continuously
improve our own understanding of online teaching and learning, and assess and improve the
effectiveness of our services and support of online faculty.
Instructional and Course design:
Our best practices show that high levels of "Teaching Presence" (Anderson, 2001) - effective instructional
design and organization, facilitation of productive discourse and direct instruction - positively and
significantly influence the satisfaction and reported learning of online students.
There is also evidence to suggest that a strong sense of community in the classroom helps reduce
student feelings of isolation and “burnout” associated with higher attrition levels in both classroom-based
and distance learning. A positive sense of community also promotes the likelihood of student support and
information flow, commitment to group goals, cooperation among members and satisfaction with group
processes and efforts [e.g. Rovai (2002)].
Teaching Presence is the facilitation and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of
personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes. In a learner-centered teaching
and learning environment teaching presence is demonstrated not only by the instructor, but also by the
Classroom Community is comprised of various elements of community including trust, spirit,
connectedness, belonging, membership, various forms of support, and the rich, and productive milieu that
communities of practice can engender for teaching and learning.
We believe that their is a relationship between teaching presence and the development of community in
online learning environments - that courses characterized by effective teaching presence are more likely
to develop a stronger sense of community on the part of students.
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Models, wizards, templates, and standards allow us to inform and influence the design of all courses. Our
processes, tools, and approaches are iterative, ever evolving, and flexible.
The Continuum of Web-enhanced/Blended to Fully online Course Design Models.
Student Interaction-Only model: Instructor-less web presence for online student interaction.
Present Course Content model: Instructor-posted course materials (syllabus and course information,
attachments, lecture notes, links) with no instructor interaction.
Paperless Classroom model: Provide an online drop box for papers and assignments, a dropbox for
return feedback, and assignment evaluations, an online gradebook and tracking mechanisms, course
calendar, file storage and retrieval for instructor-created course materials for instructor and student
posted course materials/information with no interaction.
Online Interaction-driven model: Provide online course areas for online interaction with content,
students and instructor such as online discussions, resources/readings, self-assessments/tests, group
projects, surveys/polls, online folders for private communications, online evaluations/gradebook,
questions/FAQs, peer to peer assistance, study groups, tutoring, etc. Online course components
supplement the f2f classroom activities.
Chronological model: Course content and online course areas for online interaction are organized and
presented online in a chronological manner. Online course components replace certain f2f classroom
activities (with reduced seat time).
Task-based content-driven model: Course content is organized by types of tasks and presented online
in a manner that provides advanced organizers, logical content structure presentation, information,
instructions and instructional cues, consistent and standardized course navigation and processes. Online
course components replace certain f2f classroom activities (with reduced seat time).
Fully-online model: An online course that reconceptualizes teaching and learning of the course content,
activities, interaction for the online environment that leverages the options, features and functionality of
the online teaching and learning environment (with no required f2f or synchronous interaction).
Support: Currently the SLN instructional design team consists of 4 full time SLN-based senior-level
learning designers and 40+ campus-based instructional designers (IDs) who meet regularly twice a month
via conference call, and have three annual face to face meetings: the SLN SUNY Online Summit (a 3-day
conference held in February in Syracuse being held for the 11 year in a row in 2010
(http://slnsolsummit2009.edublogs.org/ ) the TLT ID meeting (held after the annual TLT conference for the
last 5 years), and the annual ID roundtable (held during the CIT conference for the last 9 years). Over 90
campus-based IDs have been trained to date. Campus-based IDs are hired by individual SUNY
campuses as local support for the campus’ online faculty, and are trained centrally. Building a locally
available campus resource facilitates campus ownership and investment in the program, and makes
access for faculty convenient. Each senior level SLN ID is assigned to geographically to campuses
without local ID support and carry a maximum of 30 new faculty to support per term. They are mentors
and leaders among the ID community.
Though part editor, part technical support, the “ID” is primarily an expert in instructional design and online
teaching and learning. They are also experts the SLN course management software and technology and
can guide the faculty to the most effective and efficient ways to achieve their instructional objectives. All
IDs are given an orientation to the program and trained in our technology and the SLN faculty
development and course design process. As part of a robust professional development program, they
observe courses, complete an online orientation, participate in course design reviews, review and
familiarize themselves with our guidelines, tips, recommendations and our course developer handbook.
They are also encouraged to take an online course, given a practice template and encouraged to develop
an SLN course. They become members of the program’s instructional design team and participate
actively in bi-weekly meetings. As part of their training, new IDs carry a reduced load of faculty, partner
with the lead instructional designer for support, and assume progressively responsible roles at the faculty
Additionally, the ID functions as a single point of contact between the instructor and the SLN program.
The ID team is kept up to date on the latest programmatic information, procedural changes, technology or
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instructional design issues, and provides a forum for designers to share information and tips, and the
opportunity to brainstorm and problem-solve solutions to design and technology issues with each other.
Working so closely with their faculty and having the SLN Instructional Design Team to rely on, puts the
IDs in an advantageous position to share information, strategies, and solutions with their cohort of
assigned faculty and with each other.
The SLN campus-ID model, is at its simplest a train the trainer model. IDs not only disseminate the best
practices collected or researched in a coordinated and consistent manner, but also contribute themselves
to the data collection, evaluation, revision, feedback, and best practices collection loop. Today SLN IDs
are a large community of highly experienced online instructional design professionals all dedicated to the
common cause of supporting SLN faculty from all disciplines in the development of their online courses.
The instructional design team uses a common online space (Confluence) to post questions, document
common issues and solutions, disseminate documentation and share information between meetings.
Research: Collecting and analyzing data since 1998 from SLN faculty and students, the SLN faculty
development team initiated a research agenda to provide a theoretical framework and context from which
to base their work with faculty. Now a nationally recognized body of scholarly work that contributes to the
understanding of effective practices in online teaching and learning we combine theory with practice to
improve all SLN faculty/ID development activities, processes, models, events, resources, materials,
trainings, enhancements to our approaches, and in maximizing the use of the features and functionality of
online course management systems effectively.
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