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Online Learning at Public Universities

Recruiting, Orienting, and Supporting Online Faculty

Published Feb 2019

The number of college students enrolling in online programs will continue to grow in 2019, according to Eduventures.1 As a result, it’s critical for faculty members to master the unique skills required to teach and engage with students online. Learning House, a Wiley brand, partnered with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to examine how institutions recruit and train online faculty. Explore our findings in the Online Learning at Public Universities report, available Feb. 7.

For this research study, we surveyed and interviewed chief academic officers at AASCU institutions about recruiting, orienting, and supporting online faculty. Register for the report to gain insight into best practices and explore recommendations for empowering instructors to thrive in digital classrooms.

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Preview Our Key Findings

The report shares exclusive findings about online faculty development at AASCU institutions, including:

  • Training and development of online faculty isn’t consistently mandatory
    Many faculty members have the freedom — often contractually — to opt out of training that shares best practices for online instruction. The most common training is for using online learning technology, whereas only 37 percent of responding institutions require faculty-led pedagogical training. Overall, required training seems modest given increased enrollment in online courses.
  • Evaluation of online faculty isn’t universal
    While 90 percent of respondents ask online students to evaluate their instructors once a term, only 18 percent of supervisors evaluate online faculty that often (70 percent of supervisors do annual evaluations). Peer evaluations are less common, as only 60 percent of institutions collect this feedback. But a combination of these evaluations could help online faculty improve their techniques and commit to best practices.
  • Faculty engagement with online learners isn’t often defined by policy
    Our survey showed that written policies for faculty-to-student interactions are rare. For example, 74 percent of institutions surveyed don’t dictate how often faculty members must post topics on message boards and 71 percent don’t stipulate how quickly student assignments should be graded. A lack of documented policies may tie to faculty freedom and the structure of their contracts; however, this may limit valuable interactions between online faculty and students.
  • Adjunct faculty are significant contributors to online courses
    Although 31 percent of online courses at participating AASCU institutions use adjunct faculty, 88 percent of institutions allow their individual colleges and departments to fill adjunct positions instead of using a centralized department. To recruit adjunct faculty, 82 percent of institutions post openings on their websites and 68 percent rely on word of mouth. Once hired for online instruction, 55 percent of adjuncts teach undergraduate general education courses.

Register for Online Learning at Public Universities to get data-driven insights for improving how your institution recruits and supports online faculty.

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Meet the Author

Andrew J. Magda is the manager of market research for Learning House. 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, Magda was a senior analyst at Eduventures and a project manager at the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut.

About Our Research Partner

AASCU is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of 400 public colleges, universities and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions delivering America’s promise of Opportunities for All.

1. Eduventures. (2016). Top 10 data points from 2015. Eduventures Insights: Online and Continuing Education.

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