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Kara Van Dam

David Kidd

A little over two years ago, Kara Van Dam came to the University of Maryland University College and saw a need to change how the school approached faculty training. Faculty members at the university usually have full-time day jobs in their field and teach online classes around the world, so they operate on different schedules in a variety of time zones. But the majority of the training they participated in took place on campus or online at a specific time. 

Van Dam is leading a shift toward flexible online learning experiences that work with faculty schedules and model the practices the university wants to see in the classroom. She hired an associate vice provost for faculty development to help revise existing opportunities. 

Over the last two years, Van Dam’s team has reimagined training so that it will be available on demand when faculty members need it and take up less of their time. Part of this revision process included distilling what exactly each faculty member needs to know and when they need to know it so they don’t have to absorb too much information at once. The training sessions may take from one to three hours, but the online system will remember where faculty members left off so they don’t have to complete it all at one time. 

As part of her long-term goal, Van Dam would like to help faculty members develop a training plan that’s personalized to their interests. This plan could be tied to promotion and teaching opportunities so that the university knows who might be a good fit to develop a new course or be promoted. 

“We want to make sure that faculty coming to us are well supported and developed as teachers,” she said. —Tanya Roscorla