Comparing a Face-to-Face and Online Faculty Development Program at an Academic Health Science Center

Research Article

J Fam Med. 2015;2(1): 5.

Comparing a Face-to-Face and Online Faculty Development Program at an Academic Health Science Center

Gaughf NW, Foster PS* and Norris MR

Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Mississippi Medical Center, USA

*Corresponding author: Foster PS, Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Mississippi Medical Center, USA

Received: December 13,2014; Accepted: January 05, 2015; Published: January 06, 2015


Faculty development programs for educators in medical and health sciences education programs have been shown to have positive and sustained effects. The purpose of the current study was to examine differences in perceptions of a faculty development program offered in face-to-face and online formats at an academic health science center. A 9-session faculty development program designed to enhance curriculum development and presentation skills of faculty was conducted for two academic years. For the first academic year, the program was offered in a face-to-face format and the content was video recorded. For the second academic year, the video recordings were available in an online learning platform for faculty to complete at their own pace. Evaluations were obtained after each session. Participants were 148 (N = 148) faculty, with 90 participating during the first academic year and 58 participating during the second academic year. Forty-five percent of participants were assistant professors and 64% had no prior formal training in teaching. Results indicated that faculty perceptions of relevance of the program content or intention to use program content was not significantly different between those who attended the face-to-face program and those who participated in the online, self-directed learning platform. The findings of this study indicate that faculty does not perceive a faculty development program differently based on the format of presentation and that both formats are perceived positively by faculty in medical and health science education.

Keywords: Faculty development; Medical education; Adult learning; Online learning


TIME FF: Teaching in Medical Education for Faculty


Teaching in medical and health science education is a complex phenomenon requiring an advanced skillset for the clinical or medical educator. Teaching in this unique setting occurs in the classroom, in the lab and at the bedside. According to Harden and Crosby [1], teachers in medical education are information providers, planners, facilitators, assessors, resource developers and role models. They must serve as mentors, on-the-job role models, teaching role models, clinical or practical teachers, student assessors, lecturers, curriculum organizers and curriculum evaluators [1]. Recent advances in learning technologies may require clinical and medical educators to obtain even greater knowledge and skills than in the past to effectively teach and connect with current students enrolled in medical and health science education programs [2]. Despite these many demands on educators in these settings, many lack formal training or preparation for this professional skillset and greater training in teaching effectiveness is needed [3]. Thus, faculty development initiatives that emphasize teaching and learning principles and advance academic and professional goals are highly recommended [4].

Faculty development programs designed to increase teaching effectiveness have been employed at various academic health science institutions and the literature indicates that these programs are beneficial [5, 6]. Cole et al.’s [5] study of faculty completing a longitudinal seminar program designed to promote reflective learning and address such concepts as adult learning principles, effective feedback and leadership skills found that faculty participants regarded the program favorably and reported increased positive self-appraisals of teaching and professional skills. Steinert et al. [6] conducted a systematic review of faculty development efforts on teaching effectiveness among basic and clinical scientists in medical education. Based on 53 papers between 1980 and 2002, the authors concluded that faculty development initiatives resulted in positive outcomes. Specifically, high satisfaction, improvements to attitudes toward teaching, changes in teaching behaviors and increased educational knowledge and skills were noted [6]. Additionally, faculty who has participated in faculty development programs have reported sustained positive effects on their teaching and professional skills over time [7-9].

It is clear from the current literature that faculty development programs are an effective way to promote positive change and selfperceived improvements even though the delivery and content of these programs have varied across studies. Programs highlighted in the literature utilized varied formats, including lecture, experiential learning, seminars and workshops. Their content focused on several topics and themes, such as time management, leadership skills and feedback and evaluation. Steinert et al. [6] recognized that the context of an organization and needs of the targeted participants are important considerations that may affect the delivery and content of each unique program. However, adherence to fundamental features in faculty development effectiveness may be important. Based on their review, the authors found fundamental features of effective faculty development programs to be the use of adult learning principles, experiential learning, varying methods of instruction, feedback and peer support. Future research should strive to identify more explicit elements and approaches of faculty development programs, such as face-to-face instruction versus online modules, which result in positive outcomes [6].

The purpose of the present study was to examine faculty perceptions of the content included in a faculty development program delivered via face-to-face and online formats. Faculty in medical and health science education at an academic health science center were offered a seminar series based upon adult learning principles and designed to improve faculty teaching and professional skills. The goal of the current study was to examine differences in perceptions of a faculty development program between faculty participants receiving face-to-face instruction and those participating in online, selfdirected learning.

Materials and Methods

Faculty development program

Teaching in Medical Education For Faculty (TIME FF) was a program offered to faculty at an academic health science center in the southeastern United States. The goal of the program was to enhance curriculum development and presentation skills of faculty in an effort to improve the learning experiences of learners at all stages of their education. The course included fundamental educational topics such as developing course objectives and effective presentation skills. Additionally, the course encouraged innovative ways to reach adult learners by including content related to active learning and educational technology. It was composed of nine sessions and was delivered by sixteen experts from the six schools represented at the institution (dentistry, graduate studies, health related professions, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy).

The course was developed by administrators in the institution’s office of academic affairs with the guidance of an advisory committee representing all six schools on campus. The content was based on a thorough review of the literature and on the lessons learned from a similar program administered previously to medical residents at the institution. The session topics and learning objectives can be found in Table 1.

Citation:Gaughf NW, Foster PS and Norris MR. Comparing a Face-to-Face and Online Faculty Development Program at an Academic Health Science Center. J Fam Med. 2015;2(1): 5. ISSN:2380-0658