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It’s Teacher Appreciation Week: Celebrating Faculty and Instructors with Praise Today—and Personalized Support Every Day of the Year

Written by Bannon Puckett on May 3, 2021

Related content: Academia, Program Services, Digital Education

“I am constantly humbled by how knowledgeable they are in their field—and how they genuinely want to bring out the best in their students.”

“I’m completely amazed by their growth mindset and level of commitment to the individuals they teach.”

“Their patience, resiliency, and ability to pivot is so admirable during this unprecedented time in education and history.”

“They’ve risen to the challenge and knocked it out of the park. And knowing they’re comfortable leaning on us and seeing us as allies is truly inspiring.”

These four acclamations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how 2U praises all of the remarkable educators across our university partners’ programs. As today marks the start of Teacher Appreciation Week, we celebrate everything they bring to the online learning experience in 2U-powered degree offerings, boot camps, and short courses.

Today in words and spirit, we applaud the contributions of every faculty member and instructor in our university partners' ranks and their dedication to student success. But our admiration and support doesn’t end when Teacher Appreciation Week is over. Every day of the year, 2U shows how much we value these educators by listening to and addressing their needs, empowering them with tools for every aspect of their craft, and developing training opportunities that keep them growing and thriving. Specifically for 2U-powered degree programs, much of that support comes from the Faculty Success team.

The FED website is a one-stop hub for educators in 2U-powered degree programs

Championing Faculty Needs Through a Dedicated Arsenal of Resources

When a new faculty member or instructor joins a 2U-powered degree program, one of the first assets they’re provided is a link to 2U’s Faculty Engagement & Development (FED) website, created just for them. The site spans a full spectrum of resources, including:

  • Training modules ranging from new faculty onboarding to videos for course designers
  • Enrichment seminars, from instruction on using dialogue to achieve learning outcomes to a certificate program focused on equitable classroom strategies
  • One-on-one coaching to help faculty review technology navigation, refresh their online teaching skills, or incorporate concepts from a seminar into their course
  • Zoom playgrounds, where faculty can get hands-on practice with specific features of the live online classroom environment before they begin teaching
  • Dozens of online reference guides to help faculty make the most of their live session classrooms
  • The Faculty Advocate, a blog and newsletter published by a team of faculty-focused 2U professionals
  • A private LinkedIn group for even more faculty enrichment, networking, and sharing resources
  • And last but not least, “Digit”—FED’s fun-loving owl mascot who puts a unique spin on the faculty experience

The FED website continues to expand and evolve as a faculty member’s one-stop hub for support. But the following perspectives from four Faculty Success team members demonstrate that a personal touch can make all the difference.

One of the programs I support is a master of counseling degree, and I myself have that same degree. I’m able to speak the same language as those faculty members do and help them navigate some of the trickier areas better.
— Kyla Hines, Faculty Relationship Manager, 2U

Somewhere Between a Concierge and Air Traffic Controller

Kyla Hines, a 2U faculty relationship manager (FRM) for graduate degree programs, explains her role through two helpful analogies:

“We tend to describe ourselves to faculty in one of two ways,” Kyla says. “In one way, we’re like a concierge—someone they can go to and ask Where do I go to get this question answered? or I’d really love to do X in my course but I don’t know how to approach it? In another way, we’re like air traffic controllers, surveying the larger picture of what faculty are experiencing, both inside and outside their classrooms, as they learn to become virtual educators. We keep abreast of which planes are approaching, determine the best spots to direct them, and make sure everyone lands safely and excited to begin their online teaching journey.”

For faculty seeking to design their online courses, Kyla explains that FRMs are typically their first line of contact, serving as translators to help them understand the 2U language. “We’ve got our boots to the ground, helping them figure things out and connecting with all the teams at 2U to come up with solutions,” she says. “And whether it’s tenured professors, adjunct faculty, or section instructors joining the program, we’re there to ensure everyone has the access they need and everything is running smoothly.”

As part of her job, Kyla also works with university leadership to identify and develop additional program-specific resources. “I’ve been lucky enough to work on such projects as our equity seminars and a streamlined student feedback process for program directors—both of which were born out of listening to what faculty, students, and administrators said they needed,” she says. “We’re all so amazingly diverse in our backgrounds and experiences, and our team does a great job of trying to match folks to programs they can really speak to. For example, one of the programs I support is a master of counseling degree, and I myself have that same degree and teach at a local university here in Denver. I’m able to speak the same language as those faculty members do and help them navigate some of the trickier areas better.”

We’re not only here to support faculty's individual and collective needs—but also so we can continue to attract the best students, the best teachers, and the best people.
— Kelsy Doheny, Faculty Relationship Manager, 2U

Meeting Educators Where They Are—and Where They Were When COVID Struck

Kelsy Doheny is another Denver-based FRM who works in the undergraduate space, as well as on what the team calls “Essential” programs—i.e. university partners that needed to quickly pivot at the start of the pandemic and expeditiously convert all of their on-campus courses to online. Prior to becoming the team’s very first faculty relationship associate, Kelsy was a secondary school teacher and 2U admissions counselor. So she’s intimately familiar with what faculty and students need.

“Most of the faculty in our Essential programs were not used to teaching online,” Kelsy says. “Nobody signed up for 2020, right? It’s not what anyone expected, so none of them had time to prepare. That’s when our team swooped in. Meeting faculty where they were—and really, wherever they are at any given point in time—is one of our department’s main objectives and strengths.”

On a daily basis, Kelsy and her colleagues communicate with Curriculum & Learning, Program Management, Technical Support, and other teams across 2U to make sure faculty remain happy and primed for success. “We essentially corral everyone together who interacts with faculty in any way,” she explains.

Since faculty sign up for time with us, they drive the topic, which means our training sessions wind up being more consultations than anything else. I love it; it’s all very collaborative.
— Brian McCandless, Faculty Training Specialist, 2U

From Virtual Art Galleries to… Cat Cadavers? Anything for Faculty!

Brian McCandless is a 2U faculty training specialist and, like Kelsy, works on undergraduate and Essential programs. He was once a guidance counseling department chair at a high school in Maryland and has a master’s degree in school counseling.

“My role sometimes feels like I’m still a guidance counselor,” Brian laughs, “and that’s honestly a great thing. I just met with a professor who I’ve probably met with 10 times over the last year, just so she can make sure her exams are set up properly in the course she’s teaching. I do training to help faculty set up their gradebooks. Since faculty sign up for time with us through the FED website, they drive the topic, which means our training sessions wind up being more consultations than anything else. I love it; it’s all very collaborative.”

Given that undergraduate programs are a relatively newer part of the 2U portfolio, Brian and his team spend a fair amount of time working out logistical challenges for faculty in addition to pedagogical and instructional needs. “One faculty member needed to set up a virtual art show in their course, so that students could critique each other’s work in a gallery-like online setting,” Brian recalls. “For an undergraduate biology course, another faculty member needed to figure out how to get cat cadavers to their students so they could dissect them as part of the curriculum. We help with hundreds of unique and sometimes quirky projects like that, where 2U brainstorms together with faculty to come up with solutions for things that initially appear to be non-issues—but ultimately can make or break the entire learning experience.”

We first focus on helping faculty use the platform in a way that resembles, as much as possible, how they’ve been teaching on campus. Once they’re comfortable with that, we show them there’s so much more they can do.
— Tiffany Brown, Faculty Training Specialist, 2U

No Two Days (or Even Two Hours) Are the Same

Another faculty training specialist, Tiffany Brown, works on graduate programs at 2U. Tiffany has a background in training and management, with experiencing onboarding new hires and interns at her previous company.

“I support faculty while they’re working with the Curriculum & Learning team to design their digital courses,” she says. “This means we need to be confident enough in the technology to give them sound advice, to know what’s worked well in previous courses we’ve launched, and to know what we’ve adjusted to make better over the years, and why. We first focus on helping faculty use the platform in a way that resembles, as much as possible, how they’ve been teaching on campus. Once they’re comfortable with that, we show them there’s so much more they can do.”

Tiffany’s role changes every single day, as she works with faculty from all different backgrounds and levels of online experience. “Earlier this morning,” she says, “I met with a professor who needed me to talk her through the collaboration features in Google documents. After that, I spoke with a professor who was signing off on the course he designed, to see how the Curriculum & Learning team had brought it to life online, before he starts instruction next week. Later this afternoon, I’m conducting essentially an online dress rehearsal for a professor so that she feels ready for any last-minute things that might pop up in her classroom.”

“Much of our work is investigative, as in piecing together disparate bits of information to fill in the bigger jigsaw puzzle for faculty,” Tiffany continues. “I tell them it’s like building blocks: I’m going to start them with one block and then build to the next one, and the next one. We’re not going to have them master everything at once, because that just isn’t humanly possible. But it’s their amazing growth mindset that keeps them wanting to learn more and become the online teaching expert they know they can be.”

"HOO" is every educator's biggest fan? Digit, the FED website's fun-loving owl mascot!

The Year of the Faculty

Today may be the beginning of Teacher Appreciation Week, but 2U’s Faculty Success team is poised to champion and advocate for the educators in 2U-powered programs all year long.

“Within the company, we’re calling 2021 the Year of the Faculty,” Kelsy says. “We’re not only here to support faculty's individual and collective needs—but also so we can continue to attract the best students, the best teachers, and the best people. At 2U, we have the resources and the capacity and the human-centered approach to do that. So maybe we should call it the Decade of the Faculty. Well, ok, really the Century.”

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.