The proliferation of information technologies has made it easier to employ distance education to meet the needs of time and place-bound students who otherwise may not have a chance to learn. Distance education is now emerging as part of mainstream education and training efforts to provide learning opportunities that are flexibly responsive to learners' needs. Among the different levels of education, higher education institutions have been forerunners in experimenting and establishing distance education. According to the recent national survey on distance education in higher education institutions (NCES, 1999), about 33% of the institutions in the United States currently offer distance education courses and an additional 20% plan to offer them in the next three years. Distance education is an increasingly important component of higher education, and has become a touchstone for those seeking to keep higher education relevant (Willis, 1998).
In spite of the increasing demand for distance education in higher education institutions, there have been several barriers to its growth. According to Lewis and Wall (1988), these barriers include: (a) technical barriers such as pace of technology change, limited access to hardware, and support service complications; (b) structural barriers such as off-campus students' limited access to libraries, lack of skills to access a variety of databases, and regulations regarding transmission across state boundaries; and (c) attitudinal barriers such as faculty resistance to off-campus learning. Brock (1987) and Dillon (1989) noted that the lack of faculty participation has also been a barrier to the growth of distance education in higher education.
Instructional support in a higher education institution refers to the kind of support the institution provides faculty members to develop and improve their instruction. It usually comes from people who have specialties in certain areas in which faculty members need training and assistance to conduct their teaching effectively. Specialists include instructional designers, editors, technicians, graphic designers, radio and/or television producers, teaching assistants, and librarians. In a distance education environment, instructional support can take the forms of course redesign support, training in the use and application of distance education technologies, training in teaching methods, and media and technical support. According to Olcott and Wright (1995), instructional support, such as establishing training and providing release-time for course development, is one of the key elements leading to successful distance education. One of the reasons is the fact that instruction at a distance differs from its traditional classroom counterpart in many ways (Gehlauf, Shatz, & Frye, 1991; Northrup, 1997). Moore and Kearsley (1996) summarized four factors that make distance teaching unique compared with traditional instruction. First, in most cases, distance instructors will not see how students react to what they are saying or doing. Second, the effectiveness of distance teaching is highly dependent on how well the instructors use the technology involved. Third, distance instructors need to pay a lot of attention to students' motivation. Fourth, distance instructors usually work closely with a number of different people in the development and delivery of the course. Because of these differences, faculty members' experiences in conventional education may not necessarily be transferred and work well in a distance education setting (Kelly, 1987). Hence, even an instructor who has been outstanding in his/her classroom teaching in traditional face-to-face settings needs to be prepared for distance instruction.
While some faculty members have instinctively developed the requisite skills and abilities for distance teaching, the majority requires specialized training or trial and error experience to become comfortable and effective at a distance (Willis, 1992). In addition, distance teaching usually requires faculty members who are not familiar with the distance education setting to devote much more time in preparation than they would for a face-to-face class (Gunawardena & Zittle, 1995). However, the workload of faculty typically does not permit them to spend many hours in learning how to design, develop, and teach a distance class on their own. According to Thach and Murphy (1994), there may be as many as eleven roles for faculty members who teach at a distance, including instructor, instructional designer, technology expert, technician, administrator, site facilitator, support staff, editor, librarian, evaluation specialist, and graphic designer. Without systematic instructional support from higher education institutions, it is unreasonable to expect them to be prepared to fulfill the roles expected of them.
There is a limited number of studies that shed light on instructional support in distance education. In many distance education programs, faculty members have received little or no instructional support prior to being assigned a distance education course (Gehlauf, Shatz, & Frye, 1991; Northrup, 1997; Westbrook & Moon, 1997). Studies reported that the lack of instructional support for distance education pervades higher education institutions. Wolcott and Haderlie (1996), in their survey on support of higher education institutions for distance teaching, noted that 14 many institutions failed to provide even some of the basic instructional development services not only to faculty members, in general, but to distance teaching faculty, in particular ... most of the faculty members appear to be on their own to handle the workload" (p. 5). These studies imply that there is a need for instructional support specifically designed for distance education in higher education institutions. Indeed, Gibson and Gibson (1995) argue that the biggest failure in distance education may be the failure to adequately train and support the needs of faculty.
Faculty members are among the most important stakeholders in distance education. As such, they should participate not only in teaching but also, more broadly, in decision making about planning and implementation of distance education (Olcott & Wright, 1995). However, in reality, many distance education decisions, including those concerning instructional support, are made from the perspectives of administrators rather than those of faculty members (Willis, 1994). Faculty members are seldom consulted as to the planning and implementation of distance education (Willis, 1992). Lack of faculty involvement implies that higher education institutions may not provide faculty members with appropriate kinds of instructional support.
Numerous studies of higher education institutions have consistently identified differences between administrator and faculty perceptions of their institutions (White, 1993). Yet, no studies have investigated the perceptions of faculty and administrators with regard to instructional support, in relation to distance teaching. If the perceptions between administrators and faculty differ from each other about instructional support for distance education, it is unlikely that the faculty would receive the appropriate amount and type of instructional support they need to teach effectively at a distance. To adequately accommodate differences, it is important for the administrators to understand how the faculty members perceive the instructional support of their own institutions and how their perceptions differ from those of the administrators. A better understanding of instructional support and the environment in which it occurs creates a more reliable base from which to support distance education faculty in making a successful teaching experience. As a result of investigating the perceptions of the faculty and administrators regarding instructional support, the current study is able to identify not only whether there are perceptual differences between faculty and administrators, but also in-depth description of their perceptions. The purpose of this study is to investigate how the perceptions of faculty differ from those of administrators with regard to instructional support.
The purpose of this review of literature is to examine previous research efforts with regard to instructional support in higher education institutions. The review of literature consists of two parts: (a) a review of previous studies on administrator and faculty perceptions of faculty development and (b) a review of previous studies on the instructional support in distance education.
To find studies for these reviews, three stages of literature searching were conducted. First, a computer search was conducted with library databases: ERIC, PsycLit, Dissertation Abstracts International, and Education Index. The key words used for …