Professional development for online faculty: instructors’ perspectives on cultivating technical, pedagogical and content knowledge in a distance program

  • Sharla BerryEmail author


In this qualitative case study, the researcher draws on interviews with 13 faculty in an online doctoral program to find out how professional development offerings strengthened distance instructors’ technical, pedagogical and content knowledge. Findings suggest that guided practice sessions in the virtual classroom strengthened newer faculty members’ technical knowledge. Biweekly meetings turned into a community of practice where newer and more experienced faculty could build content knowledge. Faculty in the distance program desired more professional development in the area of online pedagogy.


Professional development Online learning Community of practice 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.


  1. Allen, I. E., Seaman, J., Poulin, R., & Straut, T. T. (2016). Online report card: Tracking online education in the United States. Babson Park, MA: Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group LLC.Google Scholar
  2. Anfara, V. A., Jr., Brown, K. M., & Mangione, T. L. (2002). Qualitative analysis on stage: Making the research process more public. Educational Researcher, 31(7), 28–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berry, S. (2017). Building community in online doctoral classrooms: Instructor practices that support community. Online Learning Journal. Retrieved from Accessed 30 May 2018.
  4. Bigatel, P. M., Ragan, L. C., Kennan, S., May, J., & Redmond, B. F. (2012). The identification of competencies for online teaching success. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(1). Accessed 30 May 2018.
  5. Bolliger, D. U., Inan, F. A., & Wasilik, O. (2014). Development and validation of the online instructor satisfaction measure (OISM). Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 17(2), 183.Google Scholar
  6. Bolliger, D. U., & Wasilik, O. (2009). Factors influencing faculty satisfaction with online teaching and learning in higher education. Distance Education, 30(1), 103–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Caffarella, R. S., & Zinn, L. F. (1999). Professional development for faculty: A conceptual framework of barriers and supports. Innovative Higher Education, 23(4), 241–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen, K. Z., Lowenthal, P. R., Bauer, C., Heaps, A., & Nielsen, C. (2017). Moving beyond smile sheets: A case study on the evaluation and iterative improvement of an online faculty development program. Online Learning, 21, 85–111.Google Scholar
  10. Chickering, A. W., & Ehrmann, S. C. (1996). Implementing the seven principles: Technology as lever. AAHE Bulletin, 49, 3–6.Google Scholar
  11. Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 3, 7.Google Scholar
  12. Eib, B. J., & Miller, P. (2006). Faculty Development as Community Building-An approach to professional development that supports Communities of Practice for Online Teaching. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 7(2), 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Elliott, M., Rhoades, N., Jackson, C. M., & Mandernach, B. J. (2015). Professional development: Designing initiatives to meet the needs of online faculty. Journal of Educators Online, 12(1), 160–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gaytan, J. (2015). Comparing faculty and student perceptions regarding factors that affect student retention in online education. American Journal of Distance Education, 29(1), 56–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Glaser, B. S., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction.Google Scholar
  16. Grabowski, B. L., Beaudoin, M., & Koszalka, T. A. (2016). Competencies for designers, instructors, and online learners. In N. Rushby & D. Surry (Eds.), Wiley handbook of learning technology (pp. 221–241). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Herman, J. H. (2012). Faculty development programs: The frequency and variety of professional development programs available to online instructors. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(5), 87–106.Google Scholar
  18. Hodges, C. B., Way, R., & Gaither Shepherd, S. S. (2013). Online teaching: Perceptions of Faculty at a Research University. In A. Sigal (Ed.), Advancing library education: Technological innovation and instructional design (pp. 16–26). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Scholar
  19. Kang, H. (2012). Training online faculty: A phenomenology study. International Journal on E-Learning, 11(4), 391–406.Google Scholar
  20. Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60–70.Google Scholar
  21. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McGee, P., Windes, D., & Torres, M. (2017). Experienced online instructors: Beliefs and preferred supports regarding online teaching. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 29(2), 331–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: a guide to design and interpretation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  24. Meyer, K. A. (2014). Student engagement in online learning: What works and why. ASHE Higher Education Report, 40(6), 1–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Meyer, K. A., & Murrell, V. S. (2014). A national study of training content and activities for faculty development for online teaching. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 18(1), n1.Google Scholar
  26. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Mohr, S. C., & Shelton, K. (2017). Best practices framework for online faculty professional development: A Delphi study. Online Learning, 21(4), 123–140.Google Scholar
  28. Pagliari, L., Batts, D., & McFadden, C. (2009). Desired versus actual training for online instructors in community colleges. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(4). Accessed 30 May 2018.
  29. Patton, M. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Porter, W. W., Graham, C. R., Spring, K. A., & Welch, K. R. (2014). Blended learning in higher education: Institutional adoption and implementation. Computers & Education, 75, 185–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Seaman, J. (2009). Online learning as a strategic asset. Babson Park, MA: Babson Survey Research Group.Google Scholar
  32. Thomas, L., Herbert, J., & Teras, M. (2014). A sense of belonging to enhance participation, success, and retention in online programs. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 5(2), 69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wenger, E. C., & Snyder, W. M. (2000). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review, 78(1), 139–146.Google Scholar
  34. Wingo, N. P., Ivankova, N. V., & Moss, J. A. (2017). Faculty perceptions about teaching online: Exploring the literature using the technology acceptance model as an organizing framework. Online Learning, 21(1), 15–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California Lutheran UniversityThousand OaksUSA

Personalised recommendations