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MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 
665 
Digital Campfires: Innovations in Helping Faculty Explore the 
Online Learning Wildness 
Campamentos Digitales: Innovaciones para Ayudar a la Facultad Explorar 
Aprendizajes no Gobernados Online 
Patrick R. Lowenthal 
University of Colorado Denver 
Denver, CO 80217, USA 
patrick.lowenthal@ucdenver.edu 
David Thomas 
University of Colorado Denver 
Denver, CO 80217, USA 
david.thomas@ucdenver.edu 
Abstract 
Institutions of Higher Education find themselves in 
difficult times where budgets are being cut while the 
demand for online learning increases year-to-year. 
While budgets are cut, the cost to design and to 
develop courses online is increasing. Given this, 
colleges and universities need to find creative yet 
effective ways to develop more online courses. The 
staff at CU Online have found one method to 
accomplish this - web camp. The following article 
outlines how one university uses Web Camps 
throughout the year to not only meet the growing 
demand for online learning but also improve the quality 
of courses being developed. 
Keywords: Online course development, Faculty 
development, Professional development, Online 
course quality, Collaborative course design, Online 
learning, Enrollment Management 
Resumen 
Las Instituciones de Educación Superior se 
encuentran en dificultades cuando se reducen los 
presupuestos en tanto la demanda para aprendizaje 
online aumenta año-a-año. Mientras los 
presupuestos se reducen, el costo de diseñar y 
desarrollar cursos online está aumentando. Debido 
a esto, los colleges y universidades necesitan 
encontrar vías creativas pero efectivas para 
desarrollar más cursos online. El equipo directivo 
de CU Online ha encontrado un método para lograr 
esto—el campo web. El siguiente artículo bosqueja 
como una universidad utiliza los Campos Web 
durante todo el año no solo para cumplir con la 
creciente demanda para recibir educación online 
sino también para mejorar la calidad de los cursos 
que se están siendo desarrollados. 
Palabras Claves: desarrollo de cursos online, 
desarrollo de la Facultad, desarrollo profesional, 
calidad del curso online, diseño de cursos 
colaborativos, aprendizaje online, Manejo de 
matrículas. 
Introduction 
Colleges and universities offer more courses online each year. An estimated 4.6.million students took at 
least one online course in the fall of 2008—over 600,000 more than during the previous year (Allen & 
Seaman, 2010). And enrollments have been estimated to be increasing anywhere from 9%-33% per 
year (Allen & Seaman, 2010; Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006). 
At the same time, colleges and universities find themselves in tough times in which they are expected to 
do more with less; most are cutting their budgets each year (Krupnick, 2008; Lyndsey, 2007; Will, 2003) 
and more recently they are instituting hiring freezes (Evans, 2008; Go, 2008; Masterson, 2008). Even 
before these hiring freezes, colleges and universities have relied more and more on adjunct faculty to 
teach courses (Finder, 2007). This trend will likely continue in these tough economic times. In this 
climate, colleges and universities must find ways to support faculty--both full time and adjunct--designing 
and developing online courses. The following paper outlines how we accomplished this at our institution 
from the trenches through the use of Web Camps.
MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 
The Problem 
Early on the first online courses were designed, developed, and offered by regular full-time university 
faculty interested in exploring this new medium (Oblinger & Hawkins, 2006). Unfortunately, though, many 
of these early online courses were simply adaptations of classroom-based courses (Lowenthal & White, 
2009). Many colleges and universities still rely on this faculty-driven model to design, develop, and 
deliver their online courses and programs and given rising budget issues, this is likely to continue. 
Bates (1997) characterized this faculty-driven model as the “Lone Ranger and Tonto” approach because 
of its heavy reliance on individual, lone ranger type, faculty. However, as the demand for entire 
academic programs offered online has increased—coupled with continued technological innovation— 
many institutions are realizing that the development and delivery of online education is an increasingly 
complicated process, requiring both a specialized pedagogy and technological expertise (Lynch, 2005; 
Oblinger & Hawkins, 2006). 
To complicate matters further, developing online courses and programs can be costly; an online course 
has been estimated to cost anywhere from $5,000 - $60,000 per course (Boettcher, 2004; Davis, 2009; 
Schiffman, 2005). Despite their cost, fueled by increase demand, institutions must continue to find ways 
to design, develop, and deliver online courses--which depending on the institutional structure--involves 
supporting faculty (both full time and adjunct) in one way or another. 
A Possible Solution: Web Camp 
As online education has moved from the fringes to become an integral part of most college and 
university’ long-term plans (Allen & Seaman, 2006), colleges and universities are adopting new models 
to support online learning. In the following section we outline a strategy called Web Camp that can be 
used at institutions that have a centralized or decentralized model of online course development. 
One of the authors (Thomas) originally came up with the idea of offering a “Web Camp” in response to a 
request from Bob Tolsma, assistant vice-chancellor for academic technology, to increase faculty interest 
in online course development. Tolsma was concerned that lacking clear incentives at our institution to 
teach online, tenure-line faculty were growing reluctant to take on the extra load of creating and teaching 
an online course. The solution that emerged was Web Camp, a week-long workshop designed to help 
faculty develop new fully online courses (CU Online, 2006, para 1). 
Web Camp originally was offered during the summer to help faculty develop online courses for the 
upcoming fall semester. The purpose of Web Camp was to find a way to help support and motivate 
faculty to create new online courses. Specifically at our university, there is very little incentive for faculty 
to teach online--let alone develop new online courses. Like other institutions (see Maguire, 2005), 
teaching online and course development in general at our university are not given much weight in tenure 
and promotion decisions. But at the same time, our online enrollments continue to grow and each 
semester more students sit on wait lists because there are not enough online courses and sections 
available. 
Over time and largely due to the overall success of Web Camp, Thomas realized that there was a need 
to offer faculty a similar type of support to develop spring semester courses--which gave rise to Winter 
Web Camp. 
While Summer Web Camp and Winter Web Camp both focus on helping faculty design and develop 
online courses, they each go about it in different ways. In the following, we briefly describe each one. 
Summer Web Camp 
Summer Web Camp began in 2006 as a joint partnership between CU Online and the Center for Faculty 
Development. Since its inception, Summer Web Camp has been structured as an opportunity to help 
faculty design new courses online. 
Recognizing some barriers to the creation of new online courses--specifically, lack of time, lack of skills, 
and lack of monetary support--the Web Camp format was designed to concentrate a skill-building 
experience in a compressed time period coupled with a stipend and other incentives to attend. More 
666
MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 
specifically, faculty are given a stipend to attend Summer Web Camp to help compensate them for 
designing and developing a new online course. They also receive other things such as a themed camp 
T-shirt, university paraphernalia, books about online learning, catered breakfasts and lunches, software 
and hardware, and an end-of-camp recognition luncheon. 
Because of limited space and funds, not all faculty can attend Summer Web Camp. In order to attend, 
faculty must complete an application outlining the new course he or she is planning to develop as well as 
secure college dean and department chair signatures indicating that the course is expected to be offered 
within the upcoming academic year. Further, faculty are asked to complete 50% of their new course 
during the week of Web Camp. 
Structure of Summer Web Camp 
Summer Web Camp is a weeklong with a normal day running from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The day 
begins with breakfast followed by morning workshops. After the workshops, faculty have lunch and take 
part in afternoon workshops. The workshops blend short lectures and demonstrations with significant 
blocks of time for camp participants to practice skills and techniques and work on developing their actual 
course. In fact, this is one of the key ways that Summer Web Camp differs from other faculty 
development activities we offer at our University. Workshop content focuses not only on specific tools 
(e.g., how to use a particular feature of our course management system) but also on tips and best 
practices for online teaching and learning (e.g., different ways to use class discussions, hold office 
hours, and assess student learning). We have found that peer support and dialogue between faculty 
participants has improved not only the overall Web Camp experience for the participants but also the 
courses developed. 
Benefits of Summer Web Camp 
There are many observed benefits to Summer Web Camp. First, the university is able to support (and 
one might argue possibly even motivate) faculty to develop new online courses that might not be 
developed otherwise. For instance, since 2006, 55 new courses have been developed as a result of 
Summer Web Camp (see Table 1). Second, full time and part time faculty from a wide range of the 
university's schools and colleges take part in Web Camp. Third, and reflecting best practices, faculty 
avoid the drawbacks of designing courses in isolation (Hencmann, 2004). Summer Web Camp provides 
faculty an opportunity to talk to other faculty about how to accomplish certain things online, share ideas, 
and develop a positive camp camaraderie - which is especially important because faculty tend to make 
assumptions about what can or cannot be done online often based on limited experience teaching online 
(Wray, Lowenthal, Bates, & Stevens, 2008). For instance when asked about the things they enjoyed the 
most in Summer Web Camp, faculty pointed out the benefits of working with and talking to others as is 
illustrated in some of their comments (see Table 2). 
667 
Table 1. Number of New Online Courses 
Summer 
2006 
Summer 
2007 
Summer 
2008 
Summer 
2009 
Total 
Number of New Online Courses 15 13 17 10 55 
Summer Web Camp has been successful in part because there is an effort to maintain a healthy balance 
between workshops and lab time as well as fun and work time. But perhaps the best way to appreciate 
the success of Summer Web Camp is to read some comments faculty have made about web camp. 
Faculty have explained that 
• “'I went into Web Camp pretty much panicked because I had committed to teaching online, and 
had no idea whatsoever how to go about doing any of it... but Web Camp ... [gave]... me all the 
tools I need to make my course a success, and I feel quite relieved.” (CU Online, 2006) 
• “I’m teaching my first online course this summer and while I was a bit nervous about converting to 
online, Web Camp was exactly what I needed to gain proficiency and confidence to make the 
class successful” (CU Online, 2006)
MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 
668 
Table 2. Faculty Comments about Designing Courses with Others 
What is the thing you enjoyed most about Web Camp? 
• "Hands on instant support – the group ideas and peer interactions. What a powerful learning 
experience!" 
• "The personality of the class" 
• "Colleagues" 
• "Collegiality" 
• "...having David and others available to help solve problems as the occurred" 
• "Meeting others – collaborative learning" 
• "support of both David as well as other colleagues" 
• "Learning a little about what others do in their classes" 
• "Interacting with fellow teachers..." 
Lessons Learned from Summer Web Camp 
At times there has been a struggle meeting the needs of the diverse group of faculty who attend Summer 
Web Camp. Faculty who attend Summer Web Camp range from those who have never taught an online 
course before (and might have very basic computer skills) to those who have taught online for years and 
possibly even attended more than one web camp. We have learned that it is often helpful to sit 
beginners next to faculty who have taught online before. It has also been found helpful to have multiple 
instructors and staff available during the workshops. In fact, during last year's Summer Web Camp, three 
staff people were available in the workshop room and another one handling the catering. We have also 
found that some faculty struggle with completing 50% of their course during the week of Summer Web 
Camp (see Table 3). Finally, while some part time faculty (e.g., those who have their summer's off of 
work or those who are retired) are attracted, it is primarily full time faculty who attend Summer Web 
Camp. 
Table 3. Percent of Course Faculty Reported Completing in Summer Web Camp 
Year 2006 2007 2008 
Range 12% - 99% 15% - 80% 4% - 80% 
Average 36% 49% 44% 
Median 25 60 50 
Standard Deviation 26.6 26.4 27.1 
Future Directions of Summer Web Camp 
Based on faculty's positive feedback coupled with the continual need to offer new courses online, 
Summer Web Camp has become an annual event. While there are no plans to make any major changes 
in the way Summer Web Camp is hosted, thought is regularly given to ways to improve the format and/or 
the workshops. For instance, in the future Summer Web Camp might be offered at other campus 
locations (note: Our university has two main campuses). Further, while Summer Web Camp is undeniably 
a success on our campus, it fails to support faculty who want to improve current online courses that they 
teach. Therefore, in the future, a way might be found to incorporate some type of “remake and remodel” 
process for faculty who have been teaching a course online for years but want to focus on improving it. 
Further, while the current structure of Summer Web Camp is conducive to our campus' decentralized 
culture, other colleges and universities might find opportunities and/or a need to get other entities 
involved with web camp. For example, there might be a place for groups such as the library, service
MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 
learning, outcomes and assessment to get involved. Further, some institutions - depending on resources 
- might even want to assign an instructional designer to each faculty member (or a group of them) and/or 
have the completed courses go through some type of audit or quality control process (e.g., like a Quality 
Matters evaluation). 
Winter Web Camp 
While Summer Web Camp was developed to help faculty design and develop online courses for the fall, 
as mentioned earlier, it was recognized that faculty needed some type of support to design and develop 
online courses for the spring semester. But rather than simply mirror Summer Web Camp, Winter Web 
Camp was designed with a different focus and format. 
Structure of Winter Web Camp 
Whereas Summer Web Camp was designed primarily to attract faculty to design and develop (and 
ultimately teach) new online courses, Winter Web Camp was specifically designed for veteran faculty who 
had been teaching in the face-to-face classroom and/or online for years. As a result, Winter Web Camp 
focuses on more advanced tools and pedagogies in more of a conference structure with predetermined 
workshops. For instance, Winter Web Camp 2008 had workshops on the following: 
669 
• eCollege fundamentals 
• Blackboard fundamentals 
• Adding video to your course 
• Blogs, wiki's, and podcasts 
• Student engagement, social presence, and the future of online learning 
• 10 tech tools to watch 
• Using Google forms for student interaction and data gathering 
In addition to the workshops, open lab sessions are also offered where faculty can come in to receive 
support for anything related to their hybrid or online course. 
Further, while Summer Web Camp currently focuses on using eCollege (one of the two course 
management systems used at our university), Winter Web Camp was designed to be more platform 
independent (or at least to appeal to users of both course management systems in use at our institution). 
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Winter Web Camp was designed to attract both full time and 
adjunct faculty. The face-to-face workshops are simulcasted and recorded (using Adobe Connect Pro) so 
that faculty can attend as many or as few workshops as their schedule permits. If they miss one session, 
they can always watch a recording of the workshop later on. (see 
http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/CUOnline/FacultyResources/additionalResources/wwc/Pages/WWC 
2010Recordings.aspx for a list of recordings) This is an important component of Winter Web Camp as 
faculty often struggle to find the time to attend professional development workshops (Lowenthal, 2008; 
Wray, et al., 2010). 
Benefits of Winter Web Camp 
The Winter Web Camp format provides many of the same benefits of the summer format, namely: 
• Practice-focused presentations structured to allow for ample individual practice. 
• Real time support of experts to troubleshoot problems, coach skills, and brainstorm solutions. 
• A collegial environment where an interdisciplinary cohort of faculty share support, ideas and 
teaching experience. 
• A fun event that entices participation to an audience beyond those faculty in course development 
crisis. 
But unlike Summer Web Camp, which is only available to faculty who are developing new online courses 
and have administrative approval, Winter Web Camp is open to all faculty--whether they teach online, 
teach hybrid, and/or teach face-to-face courses. As a result, attendance in the 2009 Winter Web Camp 
workshops ranged from 3 to 25 faculty with a broad range of attendees from across the university; in fact, 
two different sessions attracted 23 and 25 faculty respectively (which is almost double the attendance of
MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 
the typical faculty development workshop held throughout the year at our institution). Further, because 
faculty who attend Winter Web Camp do not receive a stipend, the overall cost to run it is much less than 
Summer Web Camp. 
Overall, faculty seem to really enjoy Winter Web Camp. The following comments were made by faculty 
about attending Winter Web Camp: 
• "I truly believe you need to offer a wide variety of info and let instructors select those items that 
670 
impact them. In my mind, you were very successful at this." 
• "Because we can pick and choose which sessions to attend, participants can make it relevant for 
themselves." 
• "I always learn something at these camps, and I usually put into practice at least one new idea 
the very next semester" 
• "I love these things; they help me to be a better teacher and they make me think!" 
• "Live trainings can be accessed live via the Internet: that’s extremely useful to me!" 
• "...It was VERY helpful hearing from people online (looking at their comments, sometimes 
responding to them, etc) and meeting the people who came to the Lab in person." 
• "Thanks for offering this in a variety of ways, thus allowing me to participate" 
• "... thanks for making the sessions accessible online live!!! As a telecommuter living outside 
Denver, that’s quite useful to me (I wouldn’t attend any workshop/session on campus)." 
• "I really appreciate the ability to attend these online. I wouldn’t have been able to attend this time 
otherwise. I wish everything you guys put on (such as upcoming sessions) were online; I’d 
probably go to almost all of them if they were" 
Lessons Learned from Winter Web Camp 
A variety of lessons have been learned from the Winter Web Camps. Unlike Summer Web Camp, which 
involves the same core set of faculty in one location throughout the entire week, Winter Web Camp 
presents additional challenges and opportunities. For instance, perhaps the biggest lesson learned 
involved simulcasting the workshops. While we have simulcasted workshops for a couple of years with 
overall success, we specifically ran into a number of audio problems during the 2009 Winter Web Camp. 
The audio problems stemmed from a host of issues which included being in a new lab, using multiple 
wireless microphones with conflicting wireless signals, having distance attendees with a variety of 
broadband connections, to basics things such as successfully teaching a workshop to both a face-to-face 
audience and an online audience at the same time. For example, presenters often forgot to repeat 
questions people attending the face-to-face session would ask—thus leaving those attending online in the 
dark. The majority of faculty who attended the sessions online had something to say about the audio 
quality throughout the week. For instance, one faculty member stated that 
• "...please have the audience comments/questions microphoned so that the online people can 
hear. Otherwise, much is unnecessarily lost. Also, you might have one session co-leader monitor 
the chat online, in case a timely question (e.g. of clarification) is posed from someone online." 
• Please make sure that the 2nd microphone works. I missed a lot the first day on the basics of 
eCollege because I could not hear what was being asked in the classroom. 
Faculty also commented on the relevance of the topics chosen for each of the workshops. This involved 
not only the overall topic but also the skill level. One faculty member stated that, 
• "most of the session topics weren’t relevant or useful to me personally (although I’m glad they’re 
offered for those who can use them). Thus, personally, I’d like some additional (other) topics." I 
could use more that focuses on using the software’s basic features such as exams, discussions, 
and grade management, which I’ve found very limiting in many ways (perhaps there are ways to 
work around at least some of these software limitations I’ve come up against that a workshop 
would reveal to me?).
MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 
671 
Similarly, two others commented: 
• "This camp is great. It would be more helpful if every session walked students through each 
step. This would be slow, but effective. Everything goes too fast." 
• "Great and overwhelming!" 
Comments like these illustrate that despite the benefit of simulcasting workshops and enabling faculty at 
a distance to attend, we need to do a better job of ensuring the best quality audio as possible, ensuring 
that we have one person dedicated to monitoring questions posted in the chat pod online during the 
workshops and that we repeat the comments and questions made by those attending face-to-face to help 
those at a distance not miss a thing. 
Future Directions of Winter Web Camp 
Compared to Summer Web Camp, Winter Web Camp is still in its infancy. However, while there are many 
things we can improve on, the basic structure, format, and focus of Winter Web Camp is likely not going 
to change. We do however plan to continue to strive to remove any barriers for those attending at a 
distance and find ways to replicate the experience--as best we can--those attending face-to-face have at 
Winter Web Camp. 
Conclusion 
Colleges and Universities find themselves in difficult times where budgets are being cut but the demand 
for online learning increases year-to-year. While budgets are cut, the cost to design and to develop 
courses online is increasing—largely due to an increased demand for more interactive courses with high-end 
media. Given this, colleges and universities need to find creative yet effective ways to develop more 
online courses. We have found one method to accomplish this--web camp. Web camps, coupled with a 
host of additional workshops and services (see: Lowenthal, Thomas, Thai, & Yuhnke, 2009) throughout 
the year enable us to provide faculty the support they need to design and develop online courses. 
With spring around the corner, there is still time for you to offer your faculty an opportunity to go to Web 
Camp. 
References 
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Needham, MA: Sloan-C. 
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Retrieved from http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2004/06/Online-Course-Development-What- 
Does-It-Cost.aspx?aid=39863&Page=1 
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from 
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Davis, M. R. (2009, March 13th). Online professional development weighed as cost-saving topic. 
Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2009/03/13/04ddprofdev.h02.html 
Evans, D. (2008, October). Hiring Freezes and Career Realignment. The Chronicle. Retrieved from 
http://chronicle.com/jobs/blogs/onhiring/741/hiring-freezes-and-career-realignment 
Finder, A. (2007, November 20th). Decline of the tenure track raises concerns. New York Times. 
Go, A. (2008, November). More schools impose hiring freezes. US News & World Report. Retrieved from 
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Hencmann, M. (2004). Teeming Course Development Needs Need Course Development Teams. In G. 
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Krupnick, M. (2008, January 11). Public colleges dreading effects of budget cuts. Alameda Times-Star. 
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differently: Create and collaborate. Raleigh, NC: Lulu Enterprises. Retrieved from 
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ges/Handbook2009.aspx 
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932-936). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. 
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195). Needham, MA: Sloan-C. 
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http://www.westga.edu/%7Edistance/ojdla/spring81/maguire81.htm 
Masterson (2008, November). 2 ivy league universities, hit by financial crisis, announce hiring 
freezes. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from 
http://chronicle.com/news/article/?id=5444 
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Review, 41(1), 14-15. 
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Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities, Vol. 6 (151-172). Needham, MA: Sloan-C. 
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Teaching courses online: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), 93-135. 
Will, P. (2003). State lawmakers again cut higher-education spending. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 
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of the American Education Research Association, Denver, CO. 
Manuscript received 10 Mar 2010; revision received 19 Aug 2010. 
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike License 
For details please go to: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/

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Digital campfires: Innovations in helping faculty explore the online learning wildness

  • 1. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 665 Digital Campfires: Innovations in Helping Faculty Explore the Online Learning Wildness Campamentos Digitales: Innovaciones para Ayudar a la Facultad Explorar Aprendizajes no Gobernados Online Patrick R. Lowenthal University of Colorado Denver Denver, CO 80217, USA patrick.lowenthal@ucdenver.edu David Thomas University of Colorado Denver Denver, CO 80217, USA david.thomas@ucdenver.edu Abstract Institutions of Higher Education find themselves in difficult times where budgets are being cut while the demand for online learning increases year-to-year. While budgets are cut, the cost to design and to develop courses online is increasing. Given this, colleges and universities need to find creative yet effective ways to develop more online courses. The staff at CU Online have found one method to accomplish this - web camp. The following article outlines how one university uses Web Camps throughout the year to not only meet the growing demand for online learning but also improve the quality of courses being developed. Keywords: Online course development, Faculty development, Professional development, Online course quality, Collaborative course design, Online learning, Enrollment Management Resumen Las Instituciones de Educación Superior se encuentran en dificultades cuando se reducen los presupuestos en tanto la demanda para aprendizaje online aumenta año-a-año. Mientras los presupuestos se reducen, el costo de diseñar y desarrollar cursos online está aumentando. Debido a esto, los colleges y universidades necesitan encontrar vías creativas pero efectivas para desarrollar más cursos online. El equipo directivo de CU Online ha encontrado un método para lograr esto—el campo web. El siguiente artículo bosqueja como una universidad utiliza los Campos Web durante todo el año no solo para cumplir con la creciente demanda para recibir educación online sino también para mejorar la calidad de los cursos que se están siendo desarrollados. Palabras Claves: desarrollo de cursos online, desarrollo de la Facultad, desarrollo profesional, calidad del curso online, diseño de cursos colaborativos, aprendizaje online, Manejo de matrículas. Introduction Colleges and universities offer more courses online each year. An estimated 4.6.million students took at least one online course in the fall of 2008—over 600,000 more than during the previous year (Allen & Seaman, 2010). And enrollments have been estimated to be increasing anywhere from 9%-33% per year (Allen & Seaman, 2010; Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006). At the same time, colleges and universities find themselves in tough times in which they are expected to do more with less; most are cutting their budgets each year (Krupnick, 2008; Lyndsey, 2007; Will, 2003) and more recently they are instituting hiring freezes (Evans, 2008; Go, 2008; Masterson, 2008). Even before these hiring freezes, colleges and universities have relied more and more on adjunct faculty to teach courses (Finder, 2007). This trend will likely continue in these tough economic times. In this climate, colleges and universities must find ways to support faculty--both full time and adjunct--designing and developing online courses. The following paper outlines how we accomplished this at our institution from the trenches through the use of Web Camps.
  • 2. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 The Problem Early on the first online courses were designed, developed, and offered by regular full-time university faculty interested in exploring this new medium (Oblinger & Hawkins, 2006). Unfortunately, though, many of these early online courses were simply adaptations of classroom-based courses (Lowenthal & White, 2009). Many colleges and universities still rely on this faculty-driven model to design, develop, and deliver their online courses and programs and given rising budget issues, this is likely to continue. Bates (1997) characterized this faculty-driven model as the “Lone Ranger and Tonto” approach because of its heavy reliance on individual, lone ranger type, faculty. However, as the demand for entire academic programs offered online has increased—coupled with continued technological innovation— many institutions are realizing that the development and delivery of online education is an increasingly complicated process, requiring both a specialized pedagogy and technological expertise (Lynch, 2005; Oblinger & Hawkins, 2006). To complicate matters further, developing online courses and programs can be costly; an online course has been estimated to cost anywhere from $5,000 - $60,000 per course (Boettcher, 2004; Davis, 2009; Schiffman, 2005). Despite their cost, fueled by increase demand, institutions must continue to find ways to design, develop, and deliver online courses--which depending on the institutional structure--involves supporting faculty (both full time and adjunct) in one way or another. A Possible Solution: Web Camp As online education has moved from the fringes to become an integral part of most college and university’ long-term plans (Allen & Seaman, 2006), colleges and universities are adopting new models to support online learning. In the following section we outline a strategy called Web Camp that can be used at institutions that have a centralized or decentralized model of online course development. One of the authors (Thomas) originally came up with the idea of offering a “Web Camp” in response to a request from Bob Tolsma, assistant vice-chancellor for academic technology, to increase faculty interest in online course development. Tolsma was concerned that lacking clear incentives at our institution to teach online, tenure-line faculty were growing reluctant to take on the extra load of creating and teaching an online course. The solution that emerged was Web Camp, a week-long workshop designed to help faculty develop new fully online courses (CU Online, 2006, para 1). Web Camp originally was offered during the summer to help faculty develop online courses for the upcoming fall semester. The purpose of Web Camp was to find a way to help support and motivate faculty to create new online courses. Specifically at our university, there is very little incentive for faculty to teach online--let alone develop new online courses. Like other institutions (see Maguire, 2005), teaching online and course development in general at our university are not given much weight in tenure and promotion decisions. But at the same time, our online enrollments continue to grow and each semester more students sit on wait lists because there are not enough online courses and sections available. Over time and largely due to the overall success of Web Camp, Thomas realized that there was a need to offer faculty a similar type of support to develop spring semester courses--which gave rise to Winter Web Camp. While Summer Web Camp and Winter Web Camp both focus on helping faculty design and develop online courses, they each go about it in different ways. In the following, we briefly describe each one. Summer Web Camp Summer Web Camp began in 2006 as a joint partnership between CU Online and the Center for Faculty Development. Since its inception, Summer Web Camp has been structured as an opportunity to help faculty design new courses online. Recognizing some barriers to the creation of new online courses--specifically, lack of time, lack of skills, and lack of monetary support--the Web Camp format was designed to concentrate a skill-building experience in a compressed time period coupled with a stipend and other incentives to attend. More 666
  • 3. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 specifically, faculty are given a stipend to attend Summer Web Camp to help compensate them for designing and developing a new online course. They also receive other things such as a themed camp T-shirt, university paraphernalia, books about online learning, catered breakfasts and lunches, software and hardware, and an end-of-camp recognition luncheon. Because of limited space and funds, not all faculty can attend Summer Web Camp. In order to attend, faculty must complete an application outlining the new course he or she is planning to develop as well as secure college dean and department chair signatures indicating that the course is expected to be offered within the upcoming academic year. Further, faculty are asked to complete 50% of their new course during the week of Web Camp. Structure of Summer Web Camp Summer Web Camp is a weeklong with a normal day running from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The day begins with breakfast followed by morning workshops. After the workshops, faculty have lunch and take part in afternoon workshops. The workshops blend short lectures and demonstrations with significant blocks of time for camp participants to practice skills and techniques and work on developing their actual course. In fact, this is one of the key ways that Summer Web Camp differs from other faculty development activities we offer at our University. Workshop content focuses not only on specific tools (e.g., how to use a particular feature of our course management system) but also on tips and best practices for online teaching and learning (e.g., different ways to use class discussions, hold office hours, and assess student learning). We have found that peer support and dialogue between faculty participants has improved not only the overall Web Camp experience for the participants but also the courses developed. Benefits of Summer Web Camp There are many observed benefits to Summer Web Camp. First, the university is able to support (and one might argue possibly even motivate) faculty to develop new online courses that might not be developed otherwise. For instance, since 2006, 55 new courses have been developed as a result of Summer Web Camp (see Table 1). Second, full time and part time faculty from a wide range of the university's schools and colleges take part in Web Camp. Third, and reflecting best practices, faculty avoid the drawbacks of designing courses in isolation (Hencmann, 2004). Summer Web Camp provides faculty an opportunity to talk to other faculty about how to accomplish certain things online, share ideas, and develop a positive camp camaraderie - which is especially important because faculty tend to make assumptions about what can or cannot be done online often based on limited experience teaching online (Wray, Lowenthal, Bates, & Stevens, 2008). For instance when asked about the things they enjoyed the most in Summer Web Camp, faculty pointed out the benefits of working with and talking to others as is illustrated in some of their comments (see Table 2). 667 Table 1. Number of New Online Courses Summer 2006 Summer 2007 Summer 2008 Summer 2009 Total Number of New Online Courses 15 13 17 10 55 Summer Web Camp has been successful in part because there is an effort to maintain a healthy balance between workshops and lab time as well as fun and work time. But perhaps the best way to appreciate the success of Summer Web Camp is to read some comments faculty have made about web camp. Faculty have explained that • “'I went into Web Camp pretty much panicked because I had committed to teaching online, and had no idea whatsoever how to go about doing any of it... but Web Camp ... [gave]... me all the tools I need to make my course a success, and I feel quite relieved.” (CU Online, 2006) • “I’m teaching my first online course this summer and while I was a bit nervous about converting to online, Web Camp was exactly what I needed to gain proficiency and confidence to make the class successful” (CU Online, 2006)
  • 4. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 668 Table 2. Faculty Comments about Designing Courses with Others What is the thing you enjoyed most about Web Camp? • "Hands on instant support – the group ideas and peer interactions. What a powerful learning experience!" • "The personality of the class" • "Colleagues" • "Collegiality" • "...having David and others available to help solve problems as the occurred" • "Meeting others – collaborative learning" • "support of both David as well as other colleagues" • "Learning a little about what others do in their classes" • "Interacting with fellow teachers..." Lessons Learned from Summer Web Camp At times there has been a struggle meeting the needs of the diverse group of faculty who attend Summer Web Camp. Faculty who attend Summer Web Camp range from those who have never taught an online course before (and might have very basic computer skills) to those who have taught online for years and possibly even attended more than one web camp. We have learned that it is often helpful to sit beginners next to faculty who have taught online before. It has also been found helpful to have multiple instructors and staff available during the workshops. In fact, during last year's Summer Web Camp, three staff people were available in the workshop room and another one handling the catering. We have also found that some faculty struggle with completing 50% of their course during the week of Summer Web Camp (see Table 3). Finally, while some part time faculty (e.g., those who have their summer's off of work or those who are retired) are attracted, it is primarily full time faculty who attend Summer Web Camp. Table 3. Percent of Course Faculty Reported Completing in Summer Web Camp Year 2006 2007 2008 Range 12% - 99% 15% - 80% 4% - 80% Average 36% 49% 44% Median 25 60 50 Standard Deviation 26.6 26.4 27.1 Future Directions of Summer Web Camp Based on faculty's positive feedback coupled with the continual need to offer new courses online, Summer Web Camp has become an annual event. While there are no plans to make any major changes in the way Summer Web Camp is hosted, thought is regularly given to ways to improve the format and/or the workshops. For instance, in the future Summer Web Camp might be offered at other campus locations (note: Our university has two main campuses). Further, while Summer Web Camp is undeniably a success on our campus, it fails to support faculty who want to improve current online courses that they teach. Therefore, in the future, a way might be found to incorporate some type of “remake and remodel” process for faculty who have been teaching a course online for years but want to focus on improving it. Further, while the current structure of Summer Web Camp is conducive to our campus' decentralized culture, other colleges and universities might find opportunities and/or a need to get other entities involved with web camp. For example, there might be a place for groups such as the library, service
  • 5. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 learning, outcomes and assessment to get involved. Further, some institutions - depending on resources - might even want to assign an instructional designer to each faculty member (or a group of them) and/or have the completed courses go through some type of audit or quality control process (e.g., like a Quality Matters evaluation). Winter Web Camp While Summer Web Camp was developed to help faculty design and develop online courses for the fall, as mentioned earlier, it was recognized that faculty needed some type of support to design and develop online courses for the spring semester. But rather than simply mirror Summer Web Camp, Winter Web Camp was designed with a different focus and format. Structure of Winter Web Camp Whereas Summer Web Camp was designed primarily to attract faculty to design and develop (and ultimately teach) new online courses, Winter Web Camp was specifically designed for veteran faculty who had been teaching in the face-to-face classroom and/or online for years. As a result, Winter Web Camp focuses on more advanced tools and pedagogies in more of a conference structure with predetermined workshops. For instance, Winter Web Camp 2008 had workshops on the following: 669 • eCollege fundamentals • Blackboard fundamentals • Adding video to your course • Blogs, wiki's, and podcasts • Student engagement, social presence, and the future of online learning • 10 tech tools to watch • Using Google forms for student interaction and data gathering In addition to the workshops, open lab sessions are also offered where faculty can come in to receive support for anything related to their hybrid or online course. Further, while Summer Web Camp currently focuses on using eCollege (one of the two course management systems used at our university), Winter Web Camp was designed to be more platform independent (or at least to appeal to users of both course management systems in use at our institution). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Winter Web Camp was designed to attract both full time and adjunct faculty. The face-to-face workshops are simulcasted and recorded (using Adobe Connect Pro) so that faculty can attend as many or as few workshops as their schedule permits. If they miss one session, they can always watch a recording of the workshop later on. (see http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/CUOnline/FacultyResources/additionalResources/wwc/Pages/WWC 2010Recordings.aspx for a list of recordings) This is an important component of Winter Web Camp as faculty often struggle to find the time to attend professional development workshops (Lowenthal, 2008; Wray, et al., 2010). Benefits of Winter Web Camp The Winter Web Camp format provides many of the same benefits of the summer format, namely: • Practice-focused presentations structured to allow for ample individual practice. • Real time support of experts to troubleshoot problems, coach skills, and brainstorm solutions. • A collegial environment where an interdisciplinary cohort of faculty share support, ideas and teaching experience. • A fun event that entices participation to an audience beyond those faculty in course development crisis. But unlike Summer Web Camp, which is only available to faculty who are developing new online courses and have administrative approval, Winter Web Camp is open to all faculty--whether they teach online, teach hybrid, and/or teach face-to-face courses. As a result, attendance in the 2009 Winter Web Camp workshops ranged from 3 to 25 faculty with a broad range of attendees from across the university; in fact, two different sessions attracted 23 and 25 faculty respectively (which is almost double the attendance of
  • 6. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 the typical faculty development workshop held throughout the year at our institution). Further, because faculty who attend Winter Web Camp do not receive a stipend, the overall cost to run it is much less than Summer Web Camp. Overall, faculty seem to really enjoy Winter Web Camp. The following comments were made by faculty about attending Winter Web Camp: • "I truly believe you need to offer a wide variety of info and let instructors select those items that 670 impact them. In my mind, you were very successful at this." • "Because we can pick and choose which sessions to attend, participants can make it relevant for themselves." • "I always learn something at these camps, and I usually put into practice at least one new idea the very next semester" • "I love these things; they help me to be a better teacher and they make me think!" • "Live trainings can be accessed live via the Internet: that’s extremely useful to me!" • "...It was VERY helpful hearing from people online (looking at their comments, sometimes responding to them, etc) and meeting the people who came to the Lab in person." • "Thanks for offering this in a variety of ways, thus allowing me to participate" • "... thanks for making the sessions accessible online live!!! As a telecommuter living outside Denver, that’s quite useful to me (I wouldn’t attend any workshop/session on campus)." • "I really appreciate the ability to attend these online. I wouldn’t have been able to attend this time otherwise. I wish everything you guys put on (such as upcoming sessions) were online; I’d probably go to almost all of them if they were" Lessons Learned from Winter Web Camp A variety of lessons have been learned from the Winter Web Camps. Unlike Summer Web Camp, which involves the same core set of faculty in one location throughout the entire week, Winter Web Camp presents additional challenges and opportunities. For instance, perhaps the biggest lesson learned involved simulcasting the workshops. While we have simulcasted workshops for a couple of years with overall success, we specifically ran into a number of audio problems during the 2009 Winter Web Camp. The audio problems stemmed from a host of issues which included being in a new lab, using multiple wireless microphones with conflicting wireless signals, having distance attendees with a variety of broadband connections, to basics things such as successfully teaching a workshop to both a face-to-face audience and an online audience at the same time. For example, presenters often forgot to repeat questions people attending the face-to-face session would ask—thus leaving those attending online in the dark. The majority of faculty who attended the sessions online had something to say about the audio quality throughout the week. For instance, one faculty member stated that • "...please have the audience comments/questions microphoned so that the online people can hear. Otherwise, much is unnecessarily lost. Also, you might have one session co-leader monitor the chat online, in case a timely question (e.g. of clarification) is posed from someone online." • Please make sure that the 2nd microphone works. I missed a lot the first day on the basics of eCollege because I could not hear what was being asked in the classroom. Faculty also commented on the relevance of the topics chosen for each of the workshops. This involved not only the overall topic but also the skill level. One faculty member stated that, • "most of the session topics weren’t relevant or useful to me personally (although I’m glad they’re offered for those who can use them). Thus, personally, I’d like some additional (other) topics." I could use more that focuses on using the software’s basic features such as exams, discussions, and grade management, which I’ve found very limiting in many ways (perhaps there are ways to work around at least some of these software limitations I’ve come up against that a workshop would reveal to me?).
  • 7. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 671 Similarly, two others commented: • "This camp is great. It would be more helpful if every session walked students through each step. This would be slow, but effective. Everything goes too fast." • "Great and overwhelming!" Comments like these illustrate that despite the benefit of simulcasting workshops and enabling faculty at a distance to attend, we need to do a better job of ensuring the best quality audio as possible, ensuring that we have one person dedicated to monitoring questions posted in the chat pod online during the workshops and that we repeat the comments and questions made by those attending face-to-face to help those at a distance not miss a thing. Future Directions of Winter Web Camp Compared to Summer Web Camp, Winter Web Camp is still in its infancy. However, while there are many things we can improve on, the basic structure, format, and focus of Winter Web Camp is likely not going to change. We do however plan to continue to strive to remove any barriers for those attending at a distance and find ways to replicate the experience--as best we can--those attending face-to-face have at Winter Web Camp. Conclusion Colleges and Universities find themselves in difficult times where budgets are being cut but the demand for online learning increases year-to-year. While budgets are cut, the cost to design and to develop courses online is increasing—largely due to an increased demand for more interactive courses with high-end media. Given this, colleges and universities need to find creative yet effective ways to develop more online courses. We have found one method to accomplish this--web camp. Web camps, coupled with a host of additional workshops and services (see: Lowenthal, Thomas, Thai, & Yuhnke, 2009) throughout the year enable us to provide faculty the support they need to design and develop online courses. With spring around the corner, there is still time for you to offer your faculty an opportunity to go to Web Camp. References Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Learning on demand: Online education in the United States, 2009. Needham, MA: Sloan-C. Bates, A. W. (1997). Restructuring the university for technological change. Paper presented at the Carnegie foundation of the advancement of teaching: What kind of university? Retrieved December 1, 2007, from http://bates.cstudies.ubc.ca/carnegie/carnegie.html Boettcher, J. V. (2004, June 29th). Online course development: What does it cost? Campus Technology. Retrieved from http://campustechnology.com/Articles/2004/06/Online-Course-Development-What- Does-It-Cost.aspx?aid=39863&Page=1 CU Online. (2006, July). Skylines. Web campers undertake not-too-rustic online adventures. Retrieved from http://www.cudenver.edu/Who%20Am%20I/Faculty%20and%20Staff/Newsletter/Archives/July2006/ju lyfullstory/Pages/Web%20Camp.aspx Davis, M. R. (2009, March 13th). Online professional development weighed as cost-saving topic. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2009/03/13/04ddprofdev.h02.html Evans, D. (2008, October). Hiring Freezes and Career Realignment. The Chronicle. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/jobs/blogs/onhiring/741/hiring-freezes-and-career-realignment Finder, A. (2007, November 20th). Decline of the tenure track raises concerns. New York Times. Go, A. (2008, November). More schools impose hiring freezes. US News & World Report. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/blogs/paper-trail/2008/11/07/more-schools-impose-hiring-freezes-2.html Hencmann, M. (2004). Teeming Course Development Needs Need Course Development Teams. In G. Richards (Ed.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2004 (pp. 72-78). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
  • 8. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 6, No. 3, September 2010 Krupnick, M. (2008, January 11). Public colleges dreading effects of budget cuts. Alameda Times-Star. Lowenthal, P. R. (2008). Online faculty development and storytelling: An unlikely solution to improving 672 teacher quality. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(3), 349-356. Lowenthal, P. R., Thomas, D., Thai, A., & Yuhnke, B. (Eds.). (2009). The CU Online handbook. Teach differently: Create and collaborate. Raleigh, NC: Lulu Enterprises. Retrieved from http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/CUOnline/FacultyResources/additionalResources/Handbook/Pa ges/Handbook2009.aspx Lowenthal, P. R., & White, J. W. (2009). Enterprise model. In P. Rogers, G. Berg, J. Boettcher, C. Howard, L. Justice, & K. Schenk (Eds.), Encyclopedia of distance and online learning (2nd ed., pp. 932-936). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Lynch, D. (2005). Success versus value: What do we mean by the business of online education? In J. R. Bourne & J. C. Moore, Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities, Vol. 6 (183- 195). Needham, MA: Sloan-C. Lyndsey, L. (2007). Florida universities brace for budget cuts. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53(47), 16. Maguire, L. L. (2005). Literature review–Faculty participation in online distance education: Barriers and motivators. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 8(1).Retrieved 5 April, 2005 http://www.westga.edu/%7Edistance/ojdla/spring81/maguire81.htm Masterson (2008, November). 2 ivy league universities, hit by financial crisis, announce hiring freezes. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/news/article/?id=5444 Oblinger, D. G., & Hawkins, B. L. (2006). The myth about online course development. EDUCAUSE Review, 41(1), 14-15. Schiffman, S. (2005). Business issues in online education. In J. R. Bourne & J. C. Moore, Elements of Quality Online Education: Engaging Communities, Vol. 6 (151-172). Needham, MA: Sloan-C. Tallent-Runnels, M. K., Thomas, J. A., Lan, W. Y., Cooper, S., Ahern, T. C., Shaw, S. M., et al. (2006). Teaching courses online: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), 93-135. Will, P. (2003). State lawmakers again cut higher-education spending. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 49(48), 1. Wray, M., Lowenthal, P. R., Bates, B., & Stevens, E. (2008). Investigating perceptions of teaching online & f2f. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 12(4), 243-248. Wray, M., Lowenthal, P. R., Bates, B., Switzer, T., & Stevens, E. (2010). Examining faculty motivation to participate in faculty development. Unpublished manuscript. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, Denver, CO. Manuscript received 10 Mar 2010; revision received 19 Aug 2010. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share-Alike License For details please go to: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/