One challenge of faculty development and training for online teaching is satisfying instructors with different levels of knowledge, skills, and experience. At our institution, we discovered that this challenge can be overcome by employing an adaptive learning strategy in our faculty development courses. Adaptive learning technologies assess an individual learner’s current knowledge so that they can “test out” of or skip past content and topics that they have already mastered and focus on areas they may not yet be familiar with.
As we considered using adaptive learning modules in our faculty development courses, we identified some potential benefits. For example, we often have faculty members that come from other institutions or positions where they may have prior knowledge or experience. Some of these individuals may be familiar with online teaching tools but need assistance with pedagogical strategies, while others may have extensive teaching experience but lack technology skills. Some instructors have previously taught online and are well-versed in most of the topics we cover, whereas others are completely new to teaching online. Ultimately, adaptive learning allowed us to meet our faculty members at their current level of knowledge so that they can focus on learning topics and areas beyond that level.
After we determined that adaptive learning would be the right solution for our faculty development courses, we had to decide which tool would be best. We evaluated three available adaptive learning systems: one built into our primary learning management system (LMS), one developed in-house within our institution, and one a third-party system.
To evaluate each adaptive system, we developed a rubric containing the following seven categories, each with their own subset of features or criteria.
We conducted the assessment and comparison of the adaptive technologies on the basis of available information of the systems and the experience of the instructional designers who have used them. We used a rating scale of 1–3 to evaluate each criterion objectively and systematically; 1 equaled “does not meet needs,” 2 “partially meets needs,” and 3 “meets or exceeds needs.” Along with the numerical scoring, we made notes in the “characteristics” column for each system, noting what the systems did or didn’t achieve for each criterion. For some criteria, we found it helpful to label “pros” and “cons” in this area.
We hope that the rubric and criteria we created can help others in their evaluation of adaptive technologies. Ultimately, how an institution chooses to assess adaptive systems for faculty development will depend on their needs. With this more systematic evaluation, we were able to provide our leadership with clearer and more in-depth reasoning for why we opted for one system over the others. After our evaluation of systems, we considered introducing score weighting to denote an individual criterion’s level of significance depending on our need or application. Additionally, we met as a group and discussed each of the rubric criteria for each system and then rated together in one rubric. If they desire, several individuals could evaluate the systems and then aggregate their scores to find the average or median.
Corrinne Stull, MA, is a principal learning consultant at Discover Financial Services and former associate instructional designer at the University of Central Florida. Corrinne has a passion for combining technology and education to create unique, meaningful learning experiences. She specializes in personalized and adaptive learning, web development, and online accessibility.
Jackie Compton, MA, is a web content specialist at the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. Jackie develops faculty training, professional development, and other noncredit courses in the learning management system. Her passions include online accessibility and course graphic design.
Anchalee Ngampornchai, PhD, is an instructional designer at Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. She has designed and developed more than 100 asynchronous e-learning modules and worked with faculty members in various disciplines. Her research interests are concerned with intercultural interaction in the online classroom.