Faculty Development to Promote Effective Instructional Technology Integration: A Qualitative Examination of Reflections in an Online Community


  • Roberta (Robin) Sullivan University at Buffalo, State University of New York
  • Victoria Neu University at Buffalo, State University of New York
  • Fengrong Yang University at Buffalo, State University of New York




faculty development, faculty learning communities, lifelong learning, instructional technologies, technology integration, digital literacy


The State University of New York Tools of Engagement Project (TOEP) < http://suny.edu/toep > is an online professional development model that encourages faculty and instructional support staff to explore and reflect on innovative and creative uses of emerging technologies through hands-on Discovery Learning Activities. TOEP is focused on creating peer-learning communities by providing a venue to experiment with the  evolving landscape of social media and the latest web-based technology tools. The concept of lifelong learning and how it relates to technology change serves as a guiding principle of this project. This research examines the reflective summary posts shared by participants in the project's online community to understand their perspectives about their experiences with TOEP. Our findings show that participants felt that they gained knowledge from the experiences of peers in the community. Many faculty stated that they integrated technology into their courses while they were participating in the project, or they expressed explicit plans to do so in the future. Many participants also expressed a desire to continue to learn about emerging technologies after their formal participation concluded.

Author Biographies

Roberta (Robin) Sullivan, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Roberta (Robin) Sullivan is an Online Learning Specialist and Instructional Designer at the Center for Educational Innovation at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Her research includes innovative digital pedagogy and implementing new and experimental teaching and learning methodologies. Ms. Sullivan helps facilitate a university-wide culture of exploration and dialogue around online education and collaboration by employing online resources. She therefore facilitates a variety of professional development opportunities to assist faculty in integrating emerging technology tools into their instruction. Ms. Sullivan is held in high regard for her leadership in conceiving and successfully developing and implementing the SUNY Tools of Engagement Project (TOEP)— an on-demand Discovery Learning Professional Development program that encourages faculty and staff to explore and reflect on innovative and creative uses of freely available online instructional technologies. The Exploring Emerging Technologies MOOC program, which is currently in development, has a similar goal. However, it will target a broader audience encompassing all learners, students, faculty, professionals, and pre-professionals who have a need to understand the value and implications of using established and emerging technology tools for career and personal advancement. Both initiatives are funded through Innovative Instruction Technology Grants through the SUNY Provost’s office. Ms. Sullivan has been recognized through a SUNY Faculty Advisory Council on Teaching and Technology (FACT2) Excellence in Instruction and Excellence in Instructional Support Award and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service.

Victoria Neu, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Victoria is a third-year doctoral student in the Educational Psychology and Quantitative Methods program at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and sociology from UB in 2013, and a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology & Quantitative Methods from UB in 2017. Her research interests include bullying victimization (particularly examining resilience and coping mechanisms), statistics education, and online learning. She has served as the administrative assistant for the SUNY Tools of Engagement Project (TOEP) for the past two years. She continues to serve as the administrative/project assistant as TOEP transitions into a broadly available Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). Ms. Neu currently holds a research assistant position with an assessment team for a multi-year grant through UB’s medical school. She also holds a graduate assistant position under the advisement of Dr. Corey Bower assisting with his work analyzing the relationship between stress and poverty. Ms. Neu previously worked in the Graduate School of Education’s data analysis lab where she provided statistics tutoring.

Fengrong Yang, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Fengrong is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology and Quantitative Methods in the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Fengrong grew up in China and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature from Zhejiang University. She came to UB in 2015 and finished her Master of Arts in Educational Psychology and Quantitative Methods in 2017. Her research interests include students’ problem-solving skills; international large-scale data analysis in education; and lifelong learning. She worked as a research assistant through the Center for Educational Innovation (CEI) at the University at Buffalo. She has been involved in research relating to the SUNY Tools of Engagement Project (TOEP), an online and on-demand professional development opportunity for faculty to learn about the effective use of emerging technology tools for  teaching and learning. She is currently working as a research assistant on the development of the Exploring Emerging Technologies for Lifelong Learning and Success program MOOC, which is based on the successful TOEP model.


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