To help increase awareness among instructors, the University launched a faculty focus group to study the issue of online teaching. Professor of English Stephen Yandell, who has never taught or taken an online class, is co-leading the group with management professor Rashmi Assudani, whose doctoral research focused on managing virtual teams.
“It became clear early on that Rashmi and I could serve as the good cop, bad cop, with Rashmi being more pro online education and I being more skeptical,” Yandell says. “We need that balance to facilitate a useful discussion.”
To do so, Yandell, Assudani and the nine faculty members of the group will learn how to use various technologies, take an online class at another university and invite guest speakers to discuss various aspects of the topic. They will ultimately share what they learn and any conclusions with all faculty. “If we don’t help answer the questions, they will get answered but by someone else,” Yandell says. “As the faculty, we need to explore the options as broadly as possible, so we can pose well-considered answers. We need to address how online and other distance options can provide what we believe a Xavier education to be.”
The group falls under the direction of the Center for Teaching Excellence—a faculty development think tank that began in the Fall 2010 and is designed to facilitate collaborative reflection and discussion about teaching. To do so, the Center organizes a consistent array of periodic, ongoing and regularly scheduled programs, including: Panel Discussions on foundational educational subjects; Brown Bag Lunches on issues within Xavier or higher education; The Coffeehouse, which is an open forum on various issues; Chronicle Conversations, which delve deeper into an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education; and Workshops, informal continuing education efforts.
The Center also sponsors several learning programs, such as: A pilot Faculty-in-Residence Program that provides access to some of the University’s top teachers; Faculty Learning Communities, which are cross-disciplinary groups that engage in a yearlong collaboration exploring an issue related to teaching and learning; Teaching Mentoring Pairs Program in which faculty members observe one another, teach and talk about the experience; and the Faculty Fellows Program in which Fellows spend a summer and one semester working on a project that significantly impacts some academic activity.