Dynamics of Faculty Participation in
Distance Education: Motivations,
Incentives, and Rewards
Linda L. Wolcott
Utah State University
The current growth in distance and online learning occurs at a time when higher education has already been engaged in examining the work of faculty. Over the past decade, there has been widespread discussion about reforming the tenure system and better defining what constitutes scholarship. Together, these forces are reshaping the role and expectations of faculty in higher education.
Statistics continue to show a rise in the number of distance and online courses and increasing use of technology in instruction. For example, the Campus Computing Survey (Green, 2000a) found that “more college courses are using more technology resources” (par. 7) and data “continue to show gains in the use of technology in the classroom and the role of technology to support instruction and learning” (par. 8). With an increase of 46.5% from the previous year in the number of institutions offering one or more college courses online, it is easy to conclude that faculty are increasingly involved in developing, teaching, and managing online courses.
Indeed, teaching at a distance, particularly online, is fast becoming a role expectation, especially for prospective and new faculty. There is mounting pressure from administrators to jump on the online bandwagon and to preserve a niche from edubusiness competitors. Pressure also comes from students who expect faculty to make Web-based materials available. Such expectations have added another dimension to the description of faculty roles. Burbules and Callister (2000) paint an apt picture:
The image of the solitary teacher/scholar, recruiting a few students to come to campus to study as apprentices, teaching a few large-section courses to keep the credit-hour averages up, and going home at night to work on that Major Book, is fading from the scene; individuals may aspire to this