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EdD student conducts online observation guide pilot

Fri Jan 14, 2022 at 02:14 PM

Wendy Pass has a teaching background and has been trained on how to teach. She went to college to become a teacher, taught at various levels including in higher education and she’s now working on her Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership. However, that’s not the case for all course instructors. Some instructors, while successful in their fields, have never had to teach a class full of university students–especially in an online environment. Pass’ capstone project was designed to help all who teach online. She developed an online observation guide for those in higher education to get not only feedback on their course but also resources for developing skills in specific areas–and there is plenty of interest in it in the Oakland University community.

As Pass was looking for a capstone project, she consulted with Nic Bongers, senior instructional designer in e-Learning and Instructional Support. In their brainstorming, they specifically considered those who teach classes online. 

“If you’ve been a face-to-face teacher and you are now teaching online and you don’t have the right training, it can be difficult,” said Pass. She set to work to develop a template for online teaching assessments. 

Pass started with research. She focused on best practices of online teaching, reviewing literature, searching for anything that had already been developed and creating a set of resources that would be helpful to the online instructors. Throughout her research, she found there was a need for such a template and many departments were excited to contribute to her research.

“I reached out to several departments and asked if they had anything like this, or what they were using for online teaching assessments. Many of them said they didn’t have anything or weren’t using anything,” said Pass. “I pitched it to the e-LIS advisory board committee members, who all said they didn’t currently use anything like it and were interested in it. I let them have access to the templates and provide feedback and edits.”

Starting the pilot program

At the start of the Winter 2022 semester, the pilot program for Pass’ online teaching observation template began. It is expected to run through Feb. 25. Pass is still accepting volunteers. 

Participants will be paired up, but not necessarily with those from their departments. They will follow the online teaching observation template process, this includes completing a pre-observation form, teaching observation - which can be done for synchronous or asynchronous courses, the post-observation form and a short follow-up survey from Pass. She anticipates the time commitment to be around two hours. 

“We want the observation participants to meet and develop a rapport with one another. We’d like the instructors to discuss where they might need help in a certain area or where they want the observer to take a closer look,” said Pass. “The online observation template itself is not only designed to give suggestions, but also to give a ton of resources, should they need that. It’s designed with a lot of self-reflection, the ultimate goal is growth.” 

Pass said she has pilot participants from all areas and departments. 

Design of the template

“The template is very universal. It’s not meant to be a punitive-type thing. It’s designed to help develop a rapport between the instructor and the observer,” said Pass. She said the template allows them to praise the positive work, hone in on the areas of improvement and provide resources that actually help the instructor. 

Before participating in the observation, Pass’ template provides instructions for both the reviewer and the instructor, along with examples of how to fill out the template. 

Pass said the observer examines the instructor’s course design, student interaction, and material presented. The observer then scores the instructor in several areas and gives an overall rating for each section. Sections can be adapted or removed if they don’t apply. 

The design of the template has both the instructor and the observer in mind. 

“It’s designed so that if you aren’t an experienced reviewer, you know what to look for. It can be used by any observer, no matter their experience with the process,” said Pass.

The template can be used by supervisors to assess those within their departments, or even in a peer-to-peer environment. 

“Due to the pandemic, many instructors have been thrown into teaching online. Through this online observation, we can provide them with the feedback, tools and resources they need to be successful,” said Pass.  

Pass is still accepting pilot participants. If you are interested in getting involved, contact Pass at [email protected]