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New Report Explores Training and Development of Online Faculty

Last week, at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Academic Affairs Winter Meeting, I had the pleasure of revealing the findings of our newly published report: Online Learning at Public Universities: Recruiting, Orienting, and Supporting Online Faculty. Five years ago, we conducted a survey of AASCU Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) and found that the recruitment and development of faculty to teach online was a challenge for many institutions. Our newly released study picks up where the last report left off. In discussions with conference attendees during last week’s meeting, parallels were drawn between faculty development and online student retention as well, further highlighting the importance of online faculty development.

For the current study, we sought to understand how full-time and part-time faculty are being used to develop and instruct online courses, as well as what development opportunities – both required and optional – are available.

We found that about 40 percent of courses offered by responding AASCU institutions are a combination of fully online and blended. Nearly all full-time faculty (98 percent) are expected to help instruct online or blended courses as part of their regular load. The same expectations hold true for more than eight in 10 adjunct faculty members hired by responding institutions.

The majority of participating AASCU institutions noted that they incentivize faculty for online course development (62 percent), but there is a notable minority (14 percent) that has moved away from these incentives as online courses have become more common at the institution.

Given how many online courses are offered by universities each year and the expectations that are placed on instructors to teach these courses, we asked about training that might be required prior to a faculty member teaching their first online class: learning management system (LMS) training, orientation with support services, online course design training, and pedagogical training. What is interesting is that a relatively low percentage of responding institutions require a wide variety of training before faculty teach online. None of the training topics we asked about received more than a 50 percent response rate indicating that they are required prior to faculty teaching online.

These results are just a glimpse of what we covered in the report. We surveyed 95 AASCU CAOs and conducted in-depth, qualitative interviews by phone with 10 respondents to gain their perspectives on the nuances of these topics, as well as to gain practical examples of developmental opportunities. These findings are highlighted in the report and include examples of three approaches to online faculty development that cover incentivization, goals, and the time necessary to complete the development module. We found that there are many types of development activities offered by AASCU members that are required of their online faculty, though the majority (89 percent) focus on in-house opportunities rather than external trainings or conferences.

Based on these survey data and Learning House’s 20-year internal expertise in supporting online faculty, we produced five key recommendations for institutions to consider with their online operations. To hear these recommendations and get a more in-depth understanding of the report’s key findings, please join me and Dr. George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change at AASCU, at 1 p.m. EST Feb. 21, for our live webinar. You can also download a free copy of the report at  www.learninghouse.com/AASCU2019.

About Andrew J. Magda

Andrew leads in the development of custom and large-scale market research studies and assists partner institutions with their research needs. Prior to Learning House, he was a senior analyst at Eduventures and a project manager at the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut.