Should Distance Education Constitute Different Rewards for Faculty?

By O'Quinn, Lisa; Corry, Michael | Distance Learning, July 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Should Distance Education Constitute Different Rewards for Faculty?


O'Quinn, Lisa, Corry, Michael, Distance Learning


While higher education has attempted to react to economic demands for skilled workers by delivering courses in formats convenient for students (i.e., distance education), it is questionable if institutions of higher learning have addressed the impact these demands have had on the internal core of the university-the faculty. Many facets of faculty's roles have changed as a result of technology and distance education (Baldwin, 1998; Gunawardena, 1992; Strain, 1987; ), but it is questionable if higher education's infrastructure has provided any impetus for faculty to more fully integrate technology into their courses or participate in distance education (DeSieno, 1995).

The development of distance education technologies has created conditions that require faculty to adapt to a new way of teaching and communicating with their students. In some distance education settings, instructors and students do not have the usual face-to-face contact that exists in traditional classroom settings. Thus, special means must be devised for assigning, guiding, and evaluating students' work. In order to communicate with students, instructors frequently utilize sophisticated and expensive technological devices which are not under instructors' exclusive control and often require special technical knowledge that instructors may not fully possess.

Distance education requires not only that faculty learn how to use new technologies, it also requires a paradigm shift in how educators orchestrate the act of learning (DiIlon & Walsh, 1992; Hassenplug & Harnish, 1998). As Beaudoin (1990) noted,

The emergence of increasingly student-centered learning activities in the 1970s facilitated by new instructional technology introduced in the 1980s contributing to a dramatic evolution in faculty roles raises fundamental questions within the professorate about how it will contribute to the teaching-learning process in the 1990s and beyond.

In addition to creating new learning strategies that are more student-centered and learning how to use new technologies, faculty teaching distance courses also must develop their course content and determine how it will be delivered-months prior to the course start date. Planning and preparation must be seen as a front-end activity rather than a formative one that continues throughout the course (Cyrs, 1989; Wolcott, 1993). Faculty must decide by what means they will deliver courses, define the content, and decide how they will address the content of the course in the time they are allowed.

Thus, given the time and effort that faculty must devote to learning to identify appropriate means of using new technologies and adopting new ways of facilitating learning, the question remains, as faculty roles change, should institutional rewards also change?

The literature reveals that very few institutional rewards exist for the purpose of motivating faculty to teach via distance education. Wolcott (1999); Betts (1998); Clark (1993); Olcott and Wright (1995); Dillon and Walsh (1992); Wagner et al. (1999); Smith, Eddy, Richards and Dixon (2000) all noted the absence of institutional rewards for faculty participation in technology and/or distance education training programs. Survey results from Wolcott (1999) and Betts (1998), both of whom conducted their research at Carnegie I classified institutions provided a means by which faculty could receive credit toward research or scholarship through their participation in distance education. Most faculty surveyed by Betts and Wolcott did not receive additional monetary compensation for developing or teaching distance education courses At best, the most external recognition faculty could hope to have achieved was recognition from a department chair for "carrying their academic load" for the department via distance education.

Betts' study, conducted at the George Washington University, also measured what factors motivated faculty to participate in distance education. …

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Should Distance Education Constitute Different Rewards for Faculty?
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