Thinking Differently About New Faculty Orientation 

Dartmouth's New Faculty Orientation to Teaching has, in previous years, been a full-day, in-person program designed to familiarize new faculty with the people, processes, and resources of teaching at the College. The agenda has included a welcome from the College President, remarks from the Provost, a faculty panel, lunch with the librarians, a segment on advising, a session covering nuts and bolts— how to order books for your class, what all those acronyms mean, etc. — along with opportunities for reflection, connection, and socializing. In short, it has been an ambitious attempt to fit everything new faculty need to know into a short time frame.

With the shift to remote teaching and learning for the College this spring and summer, we are facing the prospect of an uncertain fall term, and the need to adapt orientation plans to accommodate a variety of possibilities.  

The factors we have considered in adapting orientation plans are similar to the considerations faculty are making this term to shift their courses to remote delivery and engagement:

  • Participants might attend in person, remotely, or both
  • Access to reliable internet, proper equipment, a suitable environment, or time may be barriers for some participants
  • Screen fatigue, scheduling conflicts, and competing responsibilities limit the amount of time we can expect participants to engage

Additional factors, specific to new faculty, are considerations regardless of how orientation is delivered:

  • New faculty start dates vary, and faculty may be teaching immediately in fall term, or not until later terms
  • New faculty arrive with a wide range of teaching experience and from a variety of previous contexts
  • New faculty need different information and resources at different times, dependent on a wide variety of factors including discipline, course size, teaching schedule, previous teaching experience, and more.

Based on these considerations, we made decisions according to what we deemed essential and/or reasonable in our new context. As a result, we determined that our new orientation plan must be:

  • Flexible to work in-person, remotely, or both
  • Oriented to specified outcomes:
    • Participants feel welcomed into a community of educators
    • Participants are equipped to find what they need, when they need it, for navigating teaching at Dartmouth
  • Shorter overall, with shorter blocks of consecutive engaged time
  • Segmented into discrete, stand-alone sessions divided across multiple days
  • Recorded for asynchronous delivery, and repeated (in segments) at different times during the year

The resulting plan includes a variety of approaches. 

To facilitate getting to know our participants and establishing a community among them, we will adjust our pre-orientation activities. We plan to:

  • Adapt our traditional pre-orientation survey to prompt participant reflections about teaching in addition to gathering biographical information and feedback about any constraints they may face in participating.
  • Facilitate introductions and reflective teaching discussion among the group ahead of time via an online platform.

To accommodate participants in a variety of possible locations, and arriving at orientation with a wide range of start dates and teaching backgrounds, we will introduce remote delivery, asynchronous offerings, optional content, and a more focused core agenda.

The core agenda will consist of a half-day program of consecutive sessions to take place via Zoom, with additional in-person presence as is possible. Sessions will include:

  • Welcome from College President
  • Remarks from Provost
  • Faculty Panel
  • Teaching Nuts & Bolts Activity

These sessions will run synchronously between 30-60 minutes long and be interspersed with breaks. While participation in all sessions is encouraged, it is not required, and each session is designed to stand on its own. Sessions will be recorded, accessible for asynchronous viewing, and repeated at other times throughout the year.

The Nuts & Bolts activity will be adapted from its previous design, which consisted of a static Teaching FAQ resource and in-person discussion, to a more dynamic interaction. This year, the FAQ will be reformatted into a searchable digital resource that faculty can refer to throughout their teaching experience as topics become relevant and timely for them. The orientation activity will focus on introducing the resource to participants and practicing locating information within it.  

Additional sessions on more in-depth or specific topics will be offered synchronously across the orientation week and recorded for asynchronous viewing. These sessions will also be designed to stand alone, and participants can opt in based on interest, timeliness, and availability. Topics may include:

  • Who are Dartmouth students?
  • Tech tools for flexible teaching
  • Working with the library
  • Resources for student support

While New Faculty Orientation 2020 will be quite different from previous years, we anticipate that through this thoughtful redesign, we can still meet the needs of participants and address the outcomes that we intend for this program. Additionally (and rather unexpectedly), the need to redesign New Faculty Orientation for remote or hybrid delivery has prompted us to design an experience that is more tailored to the faculty experience, more accommodating of a range of participant circumstances, and more equitable overall than the in-person, synchronous orientations of previous years.

If you are redesigning a program or training for remote or hybrid delivery, we recommend beginning with the two core questions that guide any educational program design:

  • What are your goals for the program? What do you want participants to know, be able to do, or care about as a result of participating?
  • Who are your participants? What do they already know, what do they need, and how will they use what they learn?

In addition, consider these recommendations for ensuring an equitable experience for all participants in a remote or hybrid learning environment:

  • Ask your participants in advance about any constraints or challenges they foresee in fully participating in the experience. These might include access to proper technological equipment, reliable and robust internet, suitable learning environment, or time. They may also include disabilities or individual learning needs.
  • Limit the amount of synchronous activity by moving discussions and other interactions to an asynchronous format.
  • Pair any synchronous components with an asynchronous option, e.g. recordings of live sessions.
  • Accommodate human needs and limitations in the remote learning environment by adjusting program and session length, segmenting the experience, building in breaks, focusing on essential content, and providing options.

For more ideas and guides about Remote Teaching and Learning, see the Dartmouth Teach Remotely web guide.