Most institutions have at least a handful of faculty with experience in online teaching and willingness to participate in an intensive training program. Offering those faculty course releases to create and deliver a training program for other faculty on campus is an effective and comparatively low-cost option for launching the institution’s training efforts.
The Distance Education Mentoring Program at Purdue University Calumet (now named Purdue University Northwest) is designed to train experienced faculty members in the pedagogical and technological components of online education.
In 2004, the central administration of Purdue University Calumet called for new online offerings to help reverse declining enrollment. The university had few internal support resources but recognized there were faculty members across the institution with experience in online teaching and course development. The administration paid for six faculty members and four instructional designers to complete training in course design and review. These ten trained instructors served as the first set of peer mentors.
Deans and department chairs nominate faculty members to participate in the year-long mentorship program. Selected participants attend a two-day workshop prior to the start of the fall semester, three one-day workshops facilitated by the peer mentors, and three structured two-hour meetings with their mentor to review progress towards developing an online course.
The Office of Instructional Technology provides instructional design support to faculty as they develop the course. Participants receive a course release for the fall to ensure the new online course is ready to be offered during the upcoming spring semester.
During the spring semester, participants teach the new online course, which undergoes a detailed peer review completed by a group of three mentors. Faculty mentors receive a course release during the spring semester to allow them to complete reviews for all the faculty participants. Faculty participants receive a $500 stipend.
The peer mentorship model achieves a “multiplier effect” on faculty training, dramatically increasing the number of skilled online instructors within a relatively short window of time. In this way, an institution can steadily increase the number of core faculty trained in online instruction without adding extensive instructional design support services.
At Purdue University Calumet, thirty faculty members participate in the program each year, so that within only three years nearly one hundred faculty members had developed and taught online courses.