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UA Little Rock rolls out online resources for best practices in online instruction

With summer classes moving to an online-only format for the summer 2020 semester, educational experts at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock are breaking out new resources to help faculty members implement best practices in online education. 

Dr. David Montague, director of online learning and faculty mentoring which includes eLearning and Scholarly Technology & Resources (STaR), said that the university has been preparing multiple resources to assist faculty members to continue to deliver excellent online courses. 

They have developed a Fast Track to Teaching Online course, a virtual alternative to the Summer Academy for Online Learning Excellence that provides professional development geared toward creating engaging instructional content and meaningful learning experiences for traditional, hybrid, and online courses.

“Faculty members are aware of the potential for social distancing guidelines to be reinstated at some point during the fall semester, and they are taking every precaution to be ready to resume online learning to protect the health of our students,” Montague said. “The Fast Track to Teaching Online course is just one of things we are doing to help our teachers provide strong instruction in the online learning environment.” 

Facilitated by Dr. Daryl Tate, faculty coordinator, along with the STaR Instructional Design team, the course is an excellent opportunity to collaborate with other online instructors as well as gain insight and research-based best practices for developing and creating innovative online content. Faculty members will learn how to develop a syllabus, create a course overview, how to develop accessible and engaging content, how to interact with students, etc. 

While faculty members are working hard at developing their online courses, STaR members are available to evaluate online and hybrid courses through its Online Course Design Quality Assurance Standards. Earning a silver or gold standard ensures that courses meet internal quality assurance guidelines.

“Earning a silver or gold star from the STaR Office is a good way for faculty members to make sure their online course is ready to go,” Montague said. “A thorough evaluation and review means that students have everything they need to be successful in an online course.”

UA Little Rock also has an instructional continuity website, where faculty members can view instructional videos and guides, learn about online open lab sessions with eLearning and STaR, sign up for Blackboard and Collaborate Ultra Training, and request individual help. They also offer a mini-renovation service, where faculty can dust-off an old online course and refresh it with the “latest and greatest,” Montague said.

Additionally, UA Little Rock has a new Faculty Helping Faculty Blackboard Organization, a forum where UA Little Rock faculty members share tips and ideas and provide assistance for online education.

“All of these things can help improve the online learning experiences of our students,” Montague said.