University and college students are fully immersed in a participatory, interactive, digital culture that permeates every aspect of their lives. Today’s educators must find ways to integrate educational technology into their curriculum to fully engage their students in the learning process. The difficulty for educators is vetting educational technologies for pedagogical effectiveness and devoting time to work with them prior to classroom integration. Those responsible for creating faculty professional development training opportunities will find self-directed online learning modules coupled with a virtual learning community an effective training tool. Structured inquiry-based learning, which relies on self-direction, curiosity, and knowledge creation, serves as the framework for such professional development efforts. Faculty and staff from 10, public institutions in New York State created an inquiry-based, self-directed, learning community called Tools of Engagement Project (TOEP). The goal was to help faculty and staff identify and master Web 2.0 tools relevant to their teaching needs for integration into their skill set. Approximately 300 faculty and staff from across these 10 institutions met in a virtual environment during a four-month period to actively engage in a collegial, online community where they were encouraged by mentors and fellow participants to learn about Web 2.0 tools. Results of pre- and post-surveys and participants’ comments have shown this self-directed format to be an effective professional development training tool. The pace of TOEP and the differential teaching and learning aspect of the modules have helped faculty and staff who struggle to find the time to integrate these pervasive technologies into their teaching practice.
The Tools of Engagement Project was funded through grants from the State University of New York. The project was twice awarded an Innovative Instruction Technology Grant, $10,000 in 2012 and $60,000 in 2013.
Sullivan, R.(., Tysick, C.A., Pilawski, B., Strause, S.S., van Putten, C. and Whitley-Grassi, N. (2014), "Tools of Engagement Project (TOEP): Online Professional Development through Structured Inquiry and a Virtual Community", Inquiry-based Learning for Faculty and Institutional Development: A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators (Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, Vol. 1), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 377-392. https://doi.org/10.1108/S2055-364120140000001019
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