Fulbright scholar brings online teaching expertise to Faculty of Education

The coronavirus pandemic prompted a widespread shift to online learning that left educators without much chance to prepare for the new mode of delivering their courses. Two years later, some are still struggling to make their virtual teaching as meaningful and effective as in-person instruction.

Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Education Dr. Yi Yang, who arrived at the U of A from Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, at the beginning of April says the responsibility for effective online teaching shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of instructors.

“It really takes a village to provide an effective online environment for students. It’s not just up to faculty members. They need support from the technology team and instructional designers, as well as from their institution and administrators,” she said.

“The institution and administrators need to support faculty members in terms of time, budget and funding, which also includes purchasing technologies that can help instructors. They need training to use those technologies effectively in their course. And there’s a motivation piece. [...] It is not what learning technologies you have but how you’re going to use them—how to combine pedagogy, technology and instructional strategies.”

As creator and chair of Franklin University’s instructional design graduate programs, which are delivered entirely online, Dr. Yang has extensive experience in designing effective online learning environments, but she’s always keen to learn more different educational contexts.

Her Fulbright research project, Needs and Strategies for Effective Online Instruction, aims to draw on the insights and experiences of Faculty of Education faculty and teaching staff to provide recommendations for professional development related to teaching online at higher education institutions. The project is comprised of four stages:

- Conduct a needs assessment survey to identify the online teaching needs of the Education faculty members;

- Collaborate with faculty and staff members in the Faculty of Education to identify the training topics for faculty development workshops;

- Provide a series of intervention workshops to fill those needs;

- Collect in-depth qualitative data through observations during the workshop and semi-structured interviews, regarding their knowledge and behavior changes as well as their perceptions of effective online education post-pandemic.

“Hopefully, I’ll have a good response to the survey so I know what the needs are for the Faculty of Education. Then I can design and develop relevant workshops that really address those needs,” she said. “I will also work with Colleen Starchuk’s team in Technologies in Education to find out what workshops have been provided and what topics will be most beneficial.”

Dr. Yang invites all faculty and teaching staff to participate in the needs assessment survey, or contact her at yy36@ualberta.ca if you have any questions or are interested in participating in the interview portion of this research project. She’ll be visiting Edmonton and working on campus through the end of July.

Feature image: Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Education Dr. Yi Yang (photo: Laura Sou)