My work as TLT Director has brought me into contact with graduate students and other faculty in philosophy, with colleagues in similar positions in other Departments, and with faculty and staff from Liberal Arts Online Education and Outreach, the Office of Digital Media, Pedagogy, and Scholarship, Penn State World Campus, Educational Technology Services, and the Humanities in a Digital Age Initiative at Penn State.
The aspects of this activity that are most observable from the Department’s perspective have been largely operational, and have included responding to emergent and ongoing crises with our online courses. This has taken the form of collaborating with the department head concerning how to investigate and respond to individual cases where we have received complaints about courses or instructors; devoting time over a twelve-month period to the systematic overhaul of a problem course; and helping to identify the need to remove an instructor from a course mid-stream and then jumping in to lead a team asked to take over the role of administering the course.
I have also developed and maintained a Department Guide to Online Instruction (see Ongoing Projects below) that I circulate to new instructors, along with the offer for them to feel free to contact me anytime with questions about the process, their course, or online teaching in general. The Department has discussed possible approaches to graduate student development in this area, and we have worked out a plan for me to offer a regular seminar in online pedagogy. During the period of planning, I was assigned the role of mentor for individual graduate students teaching online for the first time, and was invited to present on Teaching and Learning with Technology regularly to the graduate practicum on pedagogy.
The larger overall benefit of my activity with respect to the pedagogical mission of the department, however, is now beginning to emerge as various strategic projects I have been involved in seeding and growing through connections with others across the College and the University begin to assume more concrete form. During my time in this TLT Position, I have learned that my interests and strengths as an emerging leader in online learning result from my ability to assess the overall situation reflectively, with attention to stakeholders and contexts, and then to plan strategically for moving things forward. I am certainly more than competent when working operationally to carry out specific tasks, but I sometimes lack the particular kind of self-confidence and determination that makes others so effective at pushing things through.
The more support I am able to win from colleagues whose skill sets compliment my own, the better able we are as a group to accomplish the many things I believe will distinguish our Department, from others in the College and from other Philosophy Department’s nationally and internationally, with respect to online course offerings and instructor development for online and hybrid courses.