Geralyn Stephens This is a guest post by Geralyn Stephens, Associate Professor – Clinical College of Education at Wayne State University.

Our campus has been a Blackboard client for many, many years. Our technical team and early adopters are always excited about enhanced features within Blackboard Learn when they are released. However, many of our faculty are most apprehensive about migrating to or including new tools or resources into their Blackboard courses.

That is why we joined efforts with our Office for Teaching and Learning to provide faculty hands-on training and support. Here are seven strategies we use for training faculty in our professional development program that work exceptionally well and can be replicated at your institution.

#1. Start small

We offer to upload course syllabi for faculty, if we can make their course available to students. Providing this service to our faculty is an opportunity for them to become familiar with Blackboard Learn at their own pace. This also provides us with an opportunity to reach faculty members who have not previously used the LMS.

#2. Complement current practices

Our institution requires certain information be included in all course syllabi. To address this, we create Blackboard Learn modules containing this information and ensure they remain current. Then, we upload the modules into every WSU course at the beginning of each term for all courses offered across the institution.

#3. Make it convenient

We hold training in faculty offices, on the weekends, or at the local coffee shop; wherever our instructors are working on their Blackboard Learn course sites. Providing this level of service, support, and flexibility in our training can initially be quite time consuming, but it’s worth the effort to build trust and camaraderie.

#4. Relevancy is critical

For group training sessions, we solicit ideas from those who are registered for relevant information about what/how they are currently addressing the topic in their own work. Then, we incorporate the information as a foundation for learning to use the new Blackboard Learn resource. The training sessions are designed around their real-world scenarios for maximum impact and applicability.

#5. Include new Blackboard Learn tools in training

This is an excellent way for faculty to learn about new resources. They begin to use the resource as a learner, while learning about how to use it in their instruction. For example, we use the Blog feature to ask participants to answer long form questions during our workshops.

#6. Assessments and data collection

This is one of the most important aspects of staff development. Document how the participants use the resource in their Blackboard Learn courses after the training. We collect data detailing how our faculty use the tool, the impact on students, and faculty’s recommendations for enhancing the training experience.

#7. Create a faculty learning community

Using a Blackboard Learn Discussion Area and the Self-Enrollment option, we created a place where faculty can communicate with others to discuss topics related to online teaching and Blackboard. It is called the Online Teaching Network. The boards are also monitored by our team to ensure any technical or how-to questions are promptly addressed. We also include a section called “Nifty Note” on the Faculty tab in Blackboard Learn. It contains quick tips, how-to instructions, and other items related to faculty use of Blackboard Learn.

These techniques worked well for us.  If you have ideas but have yet to try them, then please let me know, I am available to help you.

Dr. Stephens is an Associate Professor in the College of Education. She is also a two-time Blackboard Catalyst award winner: ECP & Staff Development and a former Blackboard MVP. She has also published extensively in peer reviewed publications in the area of online course design and delivery. You can reach her at geralyn.stephens AT wayne.edu

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