Developing Faculty Experts in Distance Learning: Unanticipated Benefits

Presented at the Online Learning Consortium International Conference 2014 by Deb Miller & Justin Lerman


To create a sustainable model for online learning with high levels of faculty satisfaction, faculty training and development must go beyond the basics and engage faculty as key stakeholders with opportunities for leadership in the process.





When the University of North Florida realized there was a need provide advanced faculty development for online instructors, we employed a multi-faceted approach to meeting those needs. While faculty appreciated and benefitted from existing training, it wasn't long before the faculty who had earned the requisite credential came back to ask for more. Faculty indicted a desire for both structured support in the development of additional online courses and advanced training in evidence-based strategies for teaching online.

Our existing offering was a blended training model that provided an engaging and high-quality experience. A mixture of online and face-to-face workshops, supplemented by individual instructional design consultations prepared faculty to master the online toolset, develop, and deliver online courses. When graduates of these programs came back to us to request more, we added two additional distinct offerings to our model. TOL7100 provides advanced training in online delivery coupled with instructional design support and supports the development of additional high-quality courses.

For those faculty who were truly interested in becoming our campus experts, a national certification option was sought and implemented on the campus. . These efforts support the development of a cadre of faculty experts in online learning. The Master Online Teacher (MOT) graduates receive support to complete the rigorous certification process and then provide service back to the campus. These MOT faculty develop and deliver workshops to their colleagues, provide leadership in their colleges, serve as mentors, and participate in our QM course review process. The development of these advanced training and support offerings provide access to additional professional development opportunities for faculty, which in turn leads to increased faculty satisfaction and the implementation of effective pedagogical strategies in our online courses. By using an external certification, we are able to provide faculty with a national credential they find attractive without taxing our internal staffing resources. The process also ensures a constant infusion of fresh ideas into the institution.

Session Outcomes 

Participants will identify opportunities for enhanced faculty development on their campus.

Participants will be provided with a framework for developing a plan of action.
Participants will acquire strategies for developing a cadre of expert online faculty leaders.


Deb Miller is the director of the Center for Instruction & Research Technology at the University of North Florida, and has been at UNF since 2001. She previously worked in the Duval County public school system as a classroom and resource teacher. Deb is a doctoral candidate whose research focuses on the impact of organizational context on faculty decisions to teach online. Her current professional interests also include the use of classroom response systems, mobile media, and change management in higher education.

Justin Lerman holds a B.A. in Primary Education and a M.A. in Educational Leadership and Technology. Lerman has worked as a K-12 teacher, an IT Helpdesk technician, and is currently the Coordinator for Distance Learning Training in the Center for Instruction and Research Technology at the University of North Florida (UNF). He also serves as a part-time faculty member in the instructional technology program at UNF. Lerman is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership. His professional interests include remote tools to ensure academic integrity and faculty development.