man sitting on couch while video conferencing
Story Faculty

CSU Faculty Continue to Enhance Virtual Instruction

Hazel Kelly

Thousands of CSU faculty members are engaging in professional development over the summer and fall to provide vibrant and high-quality virtual learning experiences for students.

man sitting on couch while video conferencing

​​​On May 12, 2020, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White shared information that would shape higher education across the state: To safeguard the health and safety of the CSU's 482,000 students, 53,000 employees and countless visitors, the great majority of instruction would be delivered virtually for the fall 2020 term.

In preparation for vibrant virtual fall learning, faculty across the CSU's 23 campuses are engaging in a variety of professional development programs to strengthen their online instruction skills and build a community of fellow faculty learners.

“The campus faculty development and academic technology directors have been working at lightning speed since March, and they will continue to reach an unprecedented number of faculty with professional learning throughout the summer and into the academic year," says Emily Magruder, Ph.D., director of the CSU Institute for Teaching & Learning. “There is incredible motivation to improve the quality of teaching and learning, and to do it equitably."

The Academic Technology Services department at the CSU Chancellor's Office has also been ramping up its university-wide Quality Assurance (QA) workshops—and will have trained approximately 2,200 faculty members in virtual instruction best practices by the end of the summer. The CSU has offered the QA workshops year-round since 2014, but greatly expanded its course sections—beginning in April—to meet the growing need for faculty development in areas of virtual instruction.

“This summer we are training more than eight times the faculty that we would in a normal summer, so we are meeting a critical need," says Ashley Skylar, Ph.D., QA Blended-Online program manager at the CSU Chancellor's Office. She adds that the workshops—typically $50 per course—have been offered at no cost to faculty since April.

Faculty new to virtual teaching and learning are able to learn best practices and instructional design principles for engaging students in active learning in online courses. All QA workshops are taught by certified CSU facilitators who are faculty and instructional designers with extensive experience and training in teaching and evaluating online courses.

The most popular course introduces faculty to online teaching using the Quality Learning and Teaching (QLT) instrument developed within the CSU in 2012. Faculty who complete the course can deepen their learning in a subsequent course focused on using the QLT instrument to review and improve hybrid and online courses. Faculty can also complete trainings based on the Quality Matters (QM) rubric. In addition, the QA Professional Learning Community offers a large repository of online learning examples from which faculty can explore and use to inform their own course development.​

instructor working from homw with child in background

Photo Credit: Jason Halley/Chico State 

Innovative ways to approach virtual instruction at the CSU is not necessarily a new focus, as the Lab Innovations with Technology (LIT) initiative has supported cohorts of faculty to develop new, flexible web-based labs for STEM courses since the 2013-14 academic year.

​​This year's LIT cohort began in September 2019 and while many of the 12 faculty projects were impacted by disruptions from the pandemic, several faculty were able to pivot their projects and respond to the increased demand for virtual labs and online simulations.

For example, Kathleen Shea, Ed.D., assistant professor and director of nursing simulation at San Francisco State, expanded her spring 2020 LIT course redesign pilot from a single course section of 20 students to 12 sections accommodating 245 students. She re-configured the senior BSN nursing lab to include virtual patient care simulation activities that would take the place of alternative at-home assignments, creating a more robust curriculum.

Beyond the university-wide offerings led by the Chancellor's Office, CSU campuses are also offering their own faculty development opportunities over the summer, independently or in conjunction with system-led​ programs. San José State​ is offering the Teach Online Summer Certificate Program to more than 1,000 faculty, San Diego State offers three-week sessions of its Flexible Course Design Summer Institute and Sacramento State is offering its Teach ON!-line Summer Camp. Many other campuses have robust summer professional development programming, including Chico State, Fresno State, Humboldt State, Cal State LA, CSUN, Cal Poly Pomona and San Francisco State.

While the exact course of the 2020-21 academic year remains unknown, Dr. Skylar expects that as more CSU faculty complete training to develop courses for virtual instruction, they will continue to use these innovative strategies to increase engagement and active learning even after classes return to face-to-face instruction.


Learn more about the CSU's dedication to instructional excellence by visiting the faculty development center website for each campus. ​

​​​Additional Faculty Development Starting in the Fall 

As part of the CSU's continuous focus on quality instruction, the following new grant-supported programs are well-designed to help faculty deliver engaging online learning experiences for students. The programs themselves were designed for virtual delivery in order to reach faculty where they are.​

​ACUE Course on Effective College Teaching: Thanks to the Scaling Instructional Excellence for Student Success grant from the National Association of System Heads (NASH), eight CSU campuses (comprising of about 540 instructors) will participate in faculty development from the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) to boost student achievement and close equity gaps—a core component of the CSU's Graduation Initiative 2025.

In addition, some campuses will opt to offer some or all of their faculty access to ACUE's new course on effective online teaching.

Faculty who complete the program will be awarded ACUE's Certificate in Effective College Instruction, endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE).

ACUE Microcredential in Promoting Active Learning Online (s​tarting summer 2020): About 450 instructors across 10 CSU campuses have applied to take ACUE's new microcredential course this summer, Promoting Active Learning Online. The microcredential focuses pedagogical approaches to enhance student's online learning experiences. CSU faculty who teach first-year courses are encouraged to enroll. Those who complete the eight-week course will earn the microcredential, which meets partial requirements for the ACUE Certificate in Effective College Instruction.

​California Education Learning Lab: Math and STEM Learning Development: Two new university-wide grants from the California Education Learning Lab will allow for robust professional development over the next one to two years.

​​Deeper Math Learning through Metacognitive Conversation will be offered to 40 faculty members from CSU and California Community College (CCC) campuses for the 2020-21 academic year. Based on the Reading Apprenticeship instructional model, this online professional development helps instructors design text-based lessons using Open Educational Resources. Using math word problems and graphs, faculty encourage students to have conversations about the thinking process as a way to solve problems. 

Equity in STEM through Deeper Learning in Metacognitive Conversation will be offered to 200 faculty members from CSU and CCC campuses over a 2-year period, starting in fall 2020. Also based on the Reading Apprenticeship framework, this program will help faculty build knowledge about how people learn to support STEM literacy development with a focus on equity. This Learning Lab-supported program has a special focus on developing faculty as institutional change agents, such as leading professional learning workshops on their campus, and facilitating courageous conversations with colleagues around equity and culturally responsive pedagogies in STEM. 


Online Education