2.More responsibility, but more flexibility: Online adjunct faculty are often given responsibility for course design (31 percent), but there is a large percentage of customization permitted in the courses they instruct (21 percent allow total customization), says the report.

3.A divide in online course development: College and universities usually use one of two differing philosophies over whether to use a “master course” (institutionally-developed) or “full development/customization (faculty member develops the course) for online courses taught by adjunct faculty. Only 23 percent of institutions allow little or no customization.

4.Training and PD not guaranteed: Though online adjunct faculty tend to receive high levels of tech and instructional design support (84 percent), professional development and training requirements varied, state the authors. “Responses from institutions note that online faculty adjuncts are often allowed to participate in similar training offered to all faculty members; however, this training often is face-to-face or offered on campus.”

5.Recruiting hasn’t changed: After analyzing the advertising and screening methods used, the authors found that online faculty adjuncts are hired in the same way as on-campus adjuncts.

“Adjunct faculty members have played a key role in enabling the rapid growth of online learning programs over the last ten years,” said Clinefelter. “What these findings show us, however, is that despite a recognition of the importance of online adjunct faculty, many in higher education still struggle with how to orient and support this group.”

“Online education can be every bit as good as face-to-face education, but it is a different environment” said Poulin. “While many colleges provide extensive orientation and on-going support services, some will allow a new faculty person to find their own way.  When we look at recent large-scale research on distance education retention rates, it becomes clear that the proper tools to recruit, orient and support these faculty must be implemented.”

The authors hope that the report will aid in benchmarking policies and procedures that colleges and universities are using in supporting their online adjuncts and that the recommendations also included in the report will help inform and guide institutions toward best practices in recruiting, orienting, and supporting online adjuncts for online courses, as well as benchmark their current operations against a larger sample.

For a more thorough analysis of findings, as well as recommendations, read the full report “Recruiting, Orienting, & Supporting Online Adjunct Faculty: A Survey of Practices.

Learning House will be hosting a webinar on December 3, 2015 at 2:00PM EST. Additional information can be found here.


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