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Supporting Online Teaching Faculty Beyond the Pandemic: A “faculty concierge” model

By Anita Samuel / December 2022

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In 2022, as the world slowly returns to a sense of normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic surge, it is clear some changes are here to stay. Those who have enjoyed remote working want to continue with flexible work arrangements [1]. Employers are also scrambling to make accommodations for their workforce [1, 2]. Institutions of higher education are actively trying to bring faculty members and students back to campus to restore the traditional in-class teaching model [3]. However, the landscape of higher education has changed. Some students and faculty members have come to understand and appreciate the affordances of online teaching, and they want to continue with that flexible model [4, 5]. Most students have come to appreciate recorded lectures over in-person lectures and now expect faculty members to continue to provide them [5]. In this shifting milieu, how can we provide robust support for faculty members who are teaching online? I present and argue for the “faculty concierge” model in this opinion piece.

My Positionality

I straddle two distinct spheres within academia: faculty member and instructional designer. As a faculty member, I conduct research, teach two to three courses every semester, advise 20–30 master’s and doctoral students, serve on institutional committees, and volunteer in various national and international organizations in service to the academic community. I am also an instructional designer. I help faculty members set up their online courses, conduct training sessions, and design the online presence for various programs at the university. This dual role has provided me with insight into the demands placed on instructional designers and faculty. I empathize with both groups, and this positionality informs my argument for a faculty concierge.

The Concierge Model

The concierge is a well-recognized figure in hotels, arranging special services for hotel guests such as tours or theater tickets. The role of a concierge is to, put simply, assist guests by providing personalized service. In the 1990s, medical professionals adopted this personalized service model, leading to the concierge medicine model [6]. In this model, patients receive round-the-clock physician access, same-day appointments, and highly personalized, comprehensive care [7]. A concierge model, therefore, provides high-touch, individualized support. In academia, the concierge model was adopted as “Ready Adult Concierges,” who supported returning adult learners to help them graduate successfully [8].

In 2017, McCurry and Mullinix proposed a concierge model for supporting faculty with online course design [9]. McCurry and Mullinix proposed 10 concierge “keys” to working with faculty.  These 10 keys are directed explicitly toward instructional designers as best practice guidelines for faculty support (See Table 1 ). In addition to the 10 keys, McCurry and Mullinix provide a step-by-step guide for instructional designers as they work with faculty members on online course design and development. In the faculty concierge support model, I propose in this article, I draw from the model McCurry and Mullinix described. However, I extend their model by approaching the issues through the lens of a faculty member.

Table 1. 10 Concierge “Keys” for Supporting Individualized Online Course Development [9]


The Course is Being Developed, Not the Faculty


Meet Faculty Where They Are


The Faculty and Course are Unique


Keep it Simple


It Takes Time


It Will Change Them, and You


Rubrics are Our Friends


What to Keep, and What to Let Go


It is “Their Course,” Not Yours


There is Always More to Do

Instructional designers are key players in the success of online programs. While instructional designers are well placed to act as faculty concierges since they traditionally provide faculty support, they experience unique challenges. Instructional designers are often seen as “other,” separate and different from faculty. They occupy a space between the prominent narratives of faculty and students and are often unseen workers [10]. I propose that faculty members might be another choice for faculty concierges. Faculty members reach out to peers more readily than they reach out to instructional designers [11, 12]. There is also a shared experience between faculty that faculty concierges can draw from. Faculty members who serve as faculty concierges can share their personal teaching experiences and speak with a more intimate knowledge of faculty pressures and challenges.

Faculty support needs. Faculty have various support needs as they design and deliver online courses and these needs have been extensively researched and reported upon. Here I present four essential faculty support requirements when working with instructional designers.

  • Ownership of their course. Faculty want to control their course and be the decision-makers in how the course is designed. Faculty do not want to be categorized as just subject matter experts since their role in the class far exceeds that [13].
  • Given the varied roles that faculty assume, they need flexibility and understanding regarding timelines and levels of support provided [13, 14].
  • Informal learning opportunities. Faculty participate more frequently in informal learning opportunities to enhance their online teaching skills. They look to mentors and peers for suggestions and support [15, 16].
  • Just-in-time self-directed learning. Faculty appreciate support that is available to them when they need it.

Faculty Concierge

A faculty concierge model of support addresses all the needs described above. McCurry and Mullinix’s proposed 10 concierge keys are directed explicitly toward instructional designers as best practice guidelines for faculty support. I draw on these keys but approach them from a faculty sensibility and suggest the following as support requirements for faculty concierges.

Individualized support. Faculty have differing levels of expertise in course design and technological skills. Effective support will need to address the unique needs of the specific faculty member. Faculty teaching contexts are also different. For the same course, one faculty member might be teaching a class of 20 students, and another might have a class of 80 students. Strategies and course designs for each of them will need to vary based on this context. Finally, philosophical approaches to teaching vary across disciplines. For example, hard disciplines such as engineering and mathematical sciences lean more heavily toward a cognitivist approach, while soft disciplines such as education are more constructivist in their course design [15]. It is important to account for these differences when working with faculty.

Faculty concierges, therefore, meet the faculty member where they are both intellectually and physically [9]. One-on-one consultations are scheduled at the convenience of the faculty member, and these sessions focus on listening and approaching each faculty member and context as unique. This allows for individualized support that provides the support that faculty need rather than cookie-cutter, standard solutions [9]. Furthermore, faculty concierge support is not limited to single sessions. Rather, the faculty concierge provides comprehensive longitudinal support based on a constructivist scaffolding approach. Longitudinal support allows for just-in-time faculty-directed support. It also reassures faculty that they have support available throughout their course, which helps mitigate the stress faculty can experience when teaching online.

Respecting experiences and expertise. Individualized support, inherently, assumes respect. Faculty concierges enter faculty consultations acknowledging and respecting the faculty member's accomplishments in their subject area and as educators. There is mutual respect for a peer faculty member’s expertise and experiences. This is manifested through different strategies.

  • Faculty concierges do not judge the pedagogical strategies utilized by the faculty. They provide suggestions while emphasizing that the final decisions lie with the faculty member. Faculty concierges acknowledge that faculty know their learners best.
  • Course ownership is never questioned. Faculty members are recognized as sole owners of their course since they deliver the course and are evaluated on it. As faculty members themselves, faculty concierges understand that faculty members are ultimately accountable for their course, and the role of the faculty concierge is merely to act as a force multiplier and enhance the course.

Start small. Moving a traditional face-to-face course online is a huge transition. Faculty concierges try to minimize the stress on faculty by staying within the zone of proximal development [16]. Faculty concierges try to use familiar concepts while proposing one or two changes. Change is difficult and facilitating change in teaching requires faculty buy-in. Taking small steps and slowly expanding faculty expertise will be more successful in keeping faculty engaged with teaching online.

Keep it simple. Course design can be exciting, and it is natural to want to try new technologies and strategies. Faculty concierges recognize that any technology or pedagogical strategy will only succeed if the faculty member fully understands it and uses it effectively. So, a fundamental principle for faculty concierges is to keep it simple.


There are two challenges to my proposal of this faculty concierge model. First, this level of one-to-one support is a resource-intensive model. However, we must remember that not all faculty need intense or sustained support. Faculty are accomplished professionals who want to be in control of their courses. Most faculty want to master online teaching skills and work independently of support. Secondly, it is challenging to add something else to faculty workload by expecting them to serve as faculty concierges. I suggest being faculty concierges count as a service to the institution. 

As we look ahead to a new landscape of education, it is time to explore different models. This faculty concierge model holds potential and offers exciting possibilities for the future.


[1] Kopp, B. and McRae, E. R. 11 Trends that will shape work in 2022 and beyond. Harvard Business Review January 13, 2022.

[2] Fox, M. The great reshuffle: Companies are reinventing rules as employees seek remote work, flexible hours and life beyond work. CNBC. February 4, 2022.

[3] Moody, J. Most colleges resume in-person classes. Inside Higher Ed. January 6, 2022.

[4] Lederman, D. The era of flexible work in higher education. Inside Higher Ed. January 5, 2022

[5] McKenzie, L. Students want online learning options post-pandemic. Inside Higher Ed. April 27, 2021). Retrieved April 7, 2022 from

[6] Paul, D. P., III and Skiba, M. Concierge medicine. The Health Care Manager 35, 1 (2016), 3–8.

[7] Definitive Healthcare, LLC. What is Concierge Medicine? Blog.

[8] Michelau, D. K. Bringing adults back to college: designing and implementing a statewide concierge model. Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. November 2010.

[9] McCurry, D. S. and Mullinix, B. B. A concierge model for supporting faculty in online course design. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration 20, 2 (2017).

[10] Costello, E., Welsh, S., Girme, P., Concannon, F., Farrelly, T., and Thompson, C. Who cares about learning design? Near future superheroes and villains of an educational ethics of care. Learning, Media and Technology (2022). DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2022.2074452

[11] Schmidt, S. W., Tschida, C., M., and Hodge, E. M. How faculty learn to teach online: What administrators need to know. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration 19, 1 (2016), 1–10.  

[12] Samuel, A. Faculty perceptions and experiences of "presence" in the online learning environment. Doctoral dissertation, The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 2016.

[13] Chen, Y. and Carliner, S. A special SME: An integrative literature review of the relationship between instructional designers and faculty in the design of online courses for higher education. Performance Improvement Quarterly 33, 4 (2020), 471–495.

[14] Scoppio, G. and Luyt, I. Mind the gap: Enabling online faculty and instructional designers in mapping new models for quality online courses. Education and Information Technologies 22, 3 (2017), 725–746.

[15] Samuel, A. Zones of agency: Understanding online faculty experiences of presence. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 21, 4 (2020), 79–95.

[16] Vygotsky, L.S. Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1978.


The opinions and assertions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences or the Department of Defense.

This work was prepared by a military or civilian employee of the US Government as part of the individual’s official duties and therefore is in the public domain and does not possess copyright protection (public domain information may be freely distributed and copied; however, as a courtesy, it is requested that the Uniformed Services University and the author be given an appropriate acknowledgement).


Anita Samuel is Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine and Assistant Director of Distance Learning, Center for Health Professions Education, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland.

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