St. Francis College continues to train its faculty on advanced skills to educate students online, thanks to an innovative certification program the College launched last year.
The Online Faculty Training Certification Institute provides SFC faculty a rigorous five-week curriculum of workshops and one-on-one guidance. It ensures they master best practices to develop engaging online course content and facilitate student and instructor interaction, by leveraging all the technological resources available to them.
"St. Francis College created the Institute to make certain we provide our students a top-notch education whether they complete their courses in a traditional classroom, online or some combination of the two," said Dr. Gale Gibson Gayle, SFC Assistant Vice President for Online Learning and Program Development. "This commitment started long before the COVID pandemic. We're proud to say that, for years,St. Francis College has prioritized developing our faculty to be 21st century educators, prepared to instruct students in a variety of settings. Our students and their families can feel confident that our faculty is ready to lead them on a stellar educational journey."
St. Francis College requires all its faculty complete the certification program or demonstrate they already have equivalent skills before they can instruct any online course. The first cohort of 20 faculty members completed training and received their online teaching certification last summer. An additional 29 became certified in fall 2019. Approximately 200 more faculty will have gone through training – including those who complete certification -- or demonstrate equivalent skills by fall 2020 semester.
St. Francis College's Online Learning Task Force recommended online certification for faculty as a best practice for distance learning in 2017.
As a result, under the leadership of Jennifer Lancaster, Ph.D., Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean, Dr. Gale Gibson Gayle and Corinne Smolizza, Director of Online Learning & Instructional Technology and faculty member in the Department of Management and Information were charged with developing and implementing the program.
Smolizza served as the Institute's founding instructional designer and course instructor, and incorporated best practices as recommended by Quality Matters national quality assurance standards and rubrics into the curriculum. Topics covered in the program include course design using the College's learning management system Canvas, developing online course syllabi and schedules, creating online community presence by facilitating discussions, and working in collaborative group exercises.
The instructions help St. Francis College comply with distance learning standards as set forth by the Middle States Commission
on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the New York State Education Department (NYSED).
"St. Francis College's training was very intense, but the results are tremendous," said Alexandria Egler, Ph.D., Senior
Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, who taught courses in World Religions and Pilgrimage this spring. Dr. Egler completed her online teaching certification last summer. "Having these skills under my belt made me confident that my students wouldn't miss a beat when we moved to remote instruction in the spring. I was able to provide continuity with their traditional classroom learning. Thanks to the Institute, I feel well prepared to teach online later this summer and in the fall."