Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Supporting Online Faculty Holistically: Developing a Support Website Resource

Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Supporting Online Faculty Holistically: Developing a Support Website Resource

Article excerpt

Introduction

Institutions of higher education are increasingly using online modalities to deliver education services to respond to changes in the marketplace. The changing demographics of the student population are a primary cause for increased demand for online courses (Dykman & Davis, 2005). With a large increase in non-traditional students, colleges and universities need to develop educational services to meet the needs and demands of non-traditional students (Sutherland-Smith & Saltmarsh, 2010), as many students find online education more convenient than traditional ground-based education (Kuo, Walker, Beiland, & Schroder, 2013). Colleges and Universities are increasingly offering online courses and programs to respond to changing student populations, provide convenience to students, and increase enrollment. These developments are likely to increase the need to move toward an online faculty-centric model.

An important development in the growth of online education has been the emerging position of online faculty. The increased use of online faculty poses challenges to colleges and universities, as colleges and universities are increasingly reliant on adjunct faculty to teach online courses (Dykman & Davis, 2008). This creates new issues for these institutions regarding how to attract, retain, and support quality online faculty. Unlike ground-based faculty, online faculty may be geographically disparate from the main campus of the institution, creating problems of integration into the institutions' culture and standards (Hewett & Powers, 2007). This can often lead to feelings of isolation and disengagement by the online faculty, which can hurt the quality of instruction for students as well as the institutions' reputation (Hawkins, Graham, & Barbour, 2012). Colleges and universities face critical questions of how to provide support resources to online faculty to attract and retain said faculty, and improve online student success rates.

Colleges and universities may need to develop programs and resources to help support online faculty to provide optimal educational services to their students. This will require colleges and universities to develop support systems and programs that incorporate the unique issues present in online education and, more specifically, to online faculty (Simmons, Shumack, & Carpenter, 2011). There are several relevant issues with designing programs and support systems for online faculty. Colleges and universities need to examine the type of resources online faculty need to perceive support as well as the type of resources online faculty believe add value to his or her instruction (Orr, Williams, & Pennington, 2009). The central question for this study was to ascertain the type of resources and services within a support website colleges or universities could implement to help attract and retain online faculty.

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this study was to ascertain the resource and support needs of online faculty at an institution of higher learning in the southwestern United States. Although previous studies have indicated training and monitoring were important aspects to developing effective online faculty (Al-Salman, 2011 ; Green, Alejandro, & Brown, 2009; Herman, 2012; Vaill & Testori, 2012), a central purpose of this study was to determine the services colleges or universities could provide to faculty through a support website, to establish a holistic understanding of the wants and needs of online faculty. Given the increasing propensity of colleges and universities to develop and operationalize online programs, understanding the support and resource needs of online faculty is important. An additional purpose of the study was that the higher learning institution had recently developed a support website dedicated to faculty, and there was a need to understand the material a support website should contain to improve online education. …

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