May 8, 2020
Online Teaching Strategies & Tools 18
'A Human Centered Approach to Empowering Faculty for Excellence in Online Course Design'
'A Human Centered Approach'

As at many colleges and universities across the nation, the teaching and learning landscape at William & Mary, a midsized liberal arts institution, is rapidly evolving. Online and hybrid programs are being woven throughout the William & Mary experience at such a fast pace that we have had to stop and ask ourselves what exactly we want that experience to be. As a continuation of our work on a contextualized approach to the digital learning environment, William & Mary's University eLearning Initiatives created a new model of faculty development for online course design.

The model deliberately cultivates human-centered digital learning by emphasizing connection, which we know to be difficult to foster within digital environments without intentional design. The importance of human connection has been reaffirmed through new university president Katherine Rowe's Thinking Forward campaign, from which the theme "cultivating connections" emerged as a hallmark of the William & Mary experience. We also know from the cognitive sciences that learning is fundamentally social and that social relationships activate neural pathways.

The Human-Centered Student Experience
A human-centered approach to instructional design takes into account the relationships we hope faculty will cultivate with their students online, as well as the relationships we cultivate with instructors as we teach them about online pedagogy. In our online courses, we strive to cultivate faculty-student and student-student relationships that are similarly dynamic as those for which our brick and mortar courses are well known.

We know that in a digital context, these relationships require intentional design and implementation to be achieved. As such, we have outlined a list of attributes of effective online instruction that research demonstrates can nurture these relationships and interweave them throughout our hybrid faculty development modules. These include social presence, instructor presence, community building, and respect for students as partners in the learning process.

The Human-Centered Instructor Experience
Throughout our faculty development seminar, we emphasize getting to know instructors as individual learners, and we seek to develop self-efficacy in their ability to teach online. We contextually situate our approach using the four domains highlighted by Palloff and Pratt as key components of faculty development for online teaching: personal, pedagogy, content, and technology. Leveraging our understanding of instructors and their individual relationships to pedagogy, content, and technology helps us more adeptly assess implications for instructional practice. We begin this process of understanding through an intake interview in which we become familiar with instructors, their content, and their beliefs about knowledge construction and teaching practices.

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Online Teaching Needs Assessment
The article above discusses a human centered approach to online course design and asks the question "...what exactly (do) we want that experience to be." In the pursuit of this question the Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning (FCTL) in conjunction with Faculty Senate is asking for your participation in a brief survey to assess the online technology and pedagogical needs of the campus  The survey consists of seven (7) questions and should only take 8- 10 minutes to complete.

Your participation will help in the development of training that meets the needs of our MSU educators and students.

What I Love about Teaching
Here is Dr. Scott Davison's response to the question "What I love about teaching?"

"I love watching students generate and defend creative solutions to questions where the evidence is mixed and there is no obvious resolution. This is the goal of instruction in philosophy, and it's delightful when students realize that they are able to do this on their own -- it opens up an entirely new world of possibilities for them in the unlimited realm of thought.

by Scott Davison, Department of History, Philosophy, Political, Global Studies & Legal Studies, Morehead State University

Click here to share your response:

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This is the last day of exam week and the last issue of the OTST for this semester! I want to say "Thanks" to those who have been reading and participating with this work. As we pivoted to online I wanted to provide resources to help in the transition. I hope that you have learned from and enjoyed this offering.

Let's continue to communicate

Featured Magna Webinar
The Magna 20-Minute Webinar is a valuable tool and I want to encourage you to take full advantage. Here's the accessing information:

Accessing Webinars:

These licensed Magna resources are available through a password-protected website. For access, faculty need to:
  • Log into MSU’s employee portal;
  • Look under the My Classes (Blackboard) section for the Magna Training Site;
  • If Magna isn't showing up in your list of courses, please send a request to be added to
  • When you click on the Magna Training Site, the Blackboard shell will open. Select Magna Campus and then launch the LTI link select 20-Minute Mentor Commons. After selecting 20-Minute Mentor Commons, choose Teaching Online then Online Course Design. Choose the featured title.
Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning (FCTL)
Morehead State University