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Recruiting, Orienting, and Supporting Online Adjunct Faculty

A Survey of Practices

Published November 3rd, 2015

The Changing Role of Adjunct Faculty in Online Learning

According to the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, roughly half of all instructors in higher education in 2013 were adjuncts or part-time faculty members. As this number continues to grow, how will it impact online education? What effect does the use of online adjunct faculty have on the quality and number of programs offered online?

Now, answers are available in a new report from The Learning House, Inc., and WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies). In “Recruiting, Orienting, & Supporting Online Adjunct Faculty: A Survey of Practices,” more than 200 deans, directors and provosts at two- and four-year higher education institutions were surveyed about the hiring, expectations, policies and support of adjunct and part-time faculty members for online courses.

Learn about the survey's key findings and recommendations for best practices.

Download the Report

Key Findings

  • One-size-fits-all policies are common. Policies that were designed for on-campus adjuncts were frequently applied to those who teach online, which can present challenges in the different modality.
  • Adjuncts teaching online are often given responsibility and flexibility. Thirty-one percent of online adjunct faculty are often given responsibility for course design, and 21 percent of institutions allow online adjunct faculty the ability to totally customize the courses they teach.
  • There are two approaches to how institutions have adjunct faculty develop online courses. Colleges and universities tend to fall into two camps, either using a “master course” philosophy (the institution develops the course) or “full development/customization” (the faculty member develops the course.
  • Professional training and development are not guaranteed. Eighty-four percent of respondents reported high levels of technical and instructional design support, but most professional development and training requirements were offered face-to-face or on campus.
  • Recruiting is the same for online and on-campus adjuncts. Online adjuncts are hired using the same advertising and screening methods used to hire on-campus adjuncts.

About the Authors

Dr. David Clinefelter is the Chief Academic Officer at The Learning House, Inc., in Louisville, Ky., where he develops the highest academic tools, training and strategies for the company’s online partners. Dave’s 30-year career in education spans all levels, from K-12 to higher education. An early advocate of online education, prior to joining Learning House, he served as Chief Academic Officer of for-profit, online universities Walden and Kaplan, and as President of Graceland University.


Russell Poulin is Director, Policy and Analysis at WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), where he organizes WCET’s national policy and research activities, edits WCET’s Frontiers blog, coordinates WCET’s research efforts, and works on e-learning consortia issues. He represented distance education in the U.S. Department of Education’s 2014 Negotiated Rulemaking process. Previously, he coordinated distance education activities for the North Dakota University System.


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

Related Content

This webinar reviews a recent report from Learning House and WCET that explores how colleges and universities recruit, train and retain online adjunct faculty.
View Webinar