Interestingly, Taiwan has a national e-Learning Service Certification program, which identifies 27 benchmarks (distilled from the most popular strategies employed by colleges and universities) considered essential to ensure excellence in online instruction. These benchmarks were they divided into eight criteria: Learner support, faculty support, curriculum development, instructional design, instructional process, organizational support, technology, and assessment and evaluation.
Researchers used these eight criteria when developing the survey for the 277 instructor participants from 20 universities in Taiwan. It’s important to note that all instructors surveyed have experience teaching online courses; however, that experience level differs drastically.
[More on the methodology can be found in the report.]
According to the survey, e-instructors considered “content expertise” and “instructional design” as the two most important skills to have. However, in actual practice, e-instructors ranked content expertise and “administrative management” as the top two most implemented skills.
Though the e-instructors ranked “administrative management”—which comprises carrying out the pedagogical tasks related with course management, including establishing rules and regulations, student registration, and record-keeping—as the fourth most important skill to have, they ranked this skill set as the second-highest in actual practice.
“This may indicate that e-instructors spent considerable time on administrative work while they taught online courses,” note the authors, “due to the shortage of institution administrative supports (i.e., technical support for the online platform or teaching assistant).”
Also interesting was how e-instructors ranked learning assessment. According to the e-instructors, assessment ranked third in perceived importance; yet, it places fifth in practice.
Furthermore, ‘learning facilitator’ was scored lowest in perception of importance, while it ranked fifth in practice.
“Today’s e-instructors face a growing demand from students to offer a more flexible, technology-rich course delivery and they also face the pedagogical challenges to design [and assess] these innovative learning environments,” said the report’s authors; which is why it’s critical to address these issues in professional development programs.
Training and experience
The survey found that perceptions and practices associated with online learning by e-instructors with a half year to four years of experience in online teaching were significantly different than those with more than four years of experience.
“…e-instructors with more than four years of experience…paid relatively more attention to other aspects of online instruction, such as instructional design, rather than facilitating learning,” states the report; perhaps due to more experienced e-instructors ease with online teaching.
Finally, though no significant difference existed in e-instructor perceptions among those with different training support, those with more training implemented instructional design, learning assessment, technology use, and research development practices higher than did those with little or some training.
These findings reveal that “administrators must be aware of the fact that instructional and technical training and support are important influential factors in online teaching,” emphasize the authors; “…[and] routine training programs are not sufficient for the development of e-instructors.”
Instead, the authors suggest “continuous engagement” in professional development that specifically focuses on facilitating student participation (what faculty identified as their greatest training needed in online learning environments), instructional design, and critical reflection.
For the full findings of the survey, which also include female versus male perceptions and implementation practices, as well as differences in these areas due to faculty rank, read the full report.