Juan LeonA Q&A with Dr. Juan Leon of the Center for Faculty Development & Nexus Learning

As the Director of Online Learning and Faculty Development at Jefferson College of Population Health and the Assistant Provost for Faculty Development and Online Education Assessment, can you briefly describe what these two roles mean?

I was recruited by the College’s Academic Dean in 2009 to guide the design and development of its new online programs—the first online Master’s programs in population health in the country. Since the summer of 2019, I have also been working with a new team of Assistant Provosts to promote good practices in online education across the campus.

How long have you worked at Thomas Jefferson University, and how have you seen the university’s approach to online learning evolve in that time?

I began at Jefferson in a consultative role in 2009 and joined Jefferson as a full-time employee in 2012. With each passing year, more Colleges have been doing more online. Because the Colleges have diverse missions and student populations, they each have quite different needs when it comes to engaging with students online. As a result, each year has brought more variety to what’s happening in online learning across the campus.

How do you think the COVID19 pandemic has impacted the faculty response to teaching online? Do you believe more faculty and students will be on board with online teaching & learning in the future?

Research has shown that going back to at least 2010, faculty in institutions of higher education across the country who wanted or needed to teach online were already doing so. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed most everyone else into teaching online or virtually now.  

Because the hardest part of teaching online is usually getting started, many faculty who have now gotten started will find at least some aspects of online instruction very useful and effective. So, I expect that we’ll not only have a lot more ‘flipped’ classrooms in the fall, we’ll have even more online instruction happening in 2021 as institutions get caught up, and faculty build on what they’ve discovered they like about online. Education will continue to become more distributed as well, with students less tied down to a single campus all the time.

What is your role within the Center for Faculty Development & Nexus Learning (CFDNL)? How does the Center support online learning?

The Center’s personnel work very collaboratively, so we usually take up issues as a group. At the same time, we each have areas of special interest and experience. I tend to focus on matters relating to online education and programs, and I’m especially interested in assessing learning outcomes in online environments.  

We support online learning by identifying faculty and student needs and working to provide the resources and the training to meet those needs. We bring resources together, organize training curricula, and hold workshops. We also advocate for online faculty and students in conversation with University leadership.

Tell us a bit about the newly created Canvas channel for online teaching and faculty development. What is used for, and how can faculty join?  

This new Canvas site supports a growing community of educators across Jefferson who are developing online instruction. The site provides participants with moderated discussion forums, a curated collection of resources on a wide range of topics, and archives of materials used during live events. The site will evolve as the needs and interests of this community do. 

If you are a faculty member on Canvas, the Canvas Online Teaching & Faculty Development channel is available to you to join. If you need assistance joining the Canvas channel,  email a member of the team. 

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

I began building online courses in the late 90s while working as a Visiting Professor at Kyoto University, Japan.