Colleges and universities put serious effort into what is often a lengthy search and hiring process for talented new professors and faculty members. In fact, most higher education academic positions are filled an entire year in advance. When new faculty members finally make it to campus for their first week on the job, they’ll typically participate in some form of orientation. But adjusting to a new teaching position, new department, new technology, and new university administration takes more than just a day or week of training. Institutions that want to provide the most effective induction experience for new faculty members should also consider long-term professional learning initiatives that will help faculty members continue to grow throughout their careers.
We’ve compiled a few innovative short- and long-term approaches that can help universities design effective, engaging, and sustained faculty induction programs.
New professor onboarding should begin with an official welcome and orientation. This should include introductions to the rest of the department, a review of the department’s mission and goals, office and campus tours, as well as making sure new hires have access to the technology and systems they’ll be using day-to-day. Some department heads may want to consider assigning new professors a mentor who can provide guidance and support as the new hire settles in over the weeks and months to come.
One of the most complicated parts of beginning at a new job can be learning how to use and effectively leverage unfamiliar digital systems. Many colleges and universities are now investing in online learning management systems (LMS) to stay competitive and engage with a student body that is more diverse and digitally savvy than ever before. This means that, in addition to navigating new email servers and employee portals, new professors may be required to master and quickly begin using a new LMS. Instead of having to rely on tedious in-person tutorials or trial and error, a variety of LMS instructor training resources can be found online through professional learning platforms like Hoonuit, which allow professors to electively complete as much training as they need for each tool.
Every new faculty member steps on campus with a different level of professional experience and training. Unlike high school teachers, they may have very little contact with faculty members in different departments and students whose studies fall outside of their expertise. That’s why it simply doesn’t make sense for all faculty to undergo the same professional development curriculum or work to develop the same skills.
New professors should be equipped with the resources they need to pursue professional learning that makes sense within their specialty and level of experience. For example, some professors may be interested in learning presentation and survey tools like Tableau or Qualtrics, while others may work to master Adobe programs like Photoshop.
Online learning has become an increasingly popular option, especially for students attending school part-time or who may not be able to attend in-person class during regular school hours. Professors who are new to online teaching will find that, while it’s a very different game than in-person instruction, it’s possible to create dynamic digital-first courses, as well as supplement in-person instruction with innovative online resources. Administrators should work to ensure every new faculty member is prepared to teach online and incorporate online tools into their in-person instruction and assignments.
For new professors to succeed, it’s essential for them to develop strong connections with fellow colleagues and students and to invest in the overall campus community. New professors who are assigned a mentor during their initial orientation should make use of their mentor throughout the year by scheduling meetings to discuss goals, progress, and new ideas. Likewise, faculty mentors should be trained in how best to support their new colleagues.
In turn, new professors should also model leadership, inclusion, and overall supportive behavior in the classroom. College can be a challenging and stressful transition for students, both academically and socially. New professors can use a professional learning platform like Hoonuit to find resources for how to manage a variety of non-academic issues, like suicide prevention or issues related to diversity and inclusion.
Hoonuit’s higher-ed PD offerings can play an essential role in transforming your campus’s new faculty induction process and provide a wide variety of easily accessible tools and resources essential to any instructor’s success. Click here to learn more.