August 15, 2011

Best Practices Help Dispel the Myths of Online Faculty Hiring Practices

By: in Distance Learning Administration

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Despite the continuing mainstreaming of online education, there are a number of myths that continue to persist, particularly in terms of the hiring practices for online instructors, and whether institutions make a sufficient effort to integrate remote instructors into the campus culture.

Some of the myths include:

  • Faculty who only teach online courses are typically hired “differently” than faculty who teaching face-to-face.
  • Academic departments are reluctant to use geographically-dispersed faculty to teach online courses.
  • Little to no effort is made to integrate faculty who teach only online courses into a department’s faculty community.
  • Faculty who teach only online courses are not subject to the same kind of teaching evaluation as those who teach face-to-face courses.

It was these myths and concerns that Penn State World Campus sought to investigate in 2009 with a survey of 76 lead faculty and department chairs who work with online courses and programs at Penn State. The survey was followed up by field interviews with a select subset of the larger group. The quantitative and qualitative data gathered revealed a number of interesting findings, which were shared during the online seminar Hiring, Integrating, and Evaluating Online Faculty.

Led by Ann Taylor, interim director of the Dutton e-Education Institute at Penn State, the seminar highlighted these best practices:

  • Use traditional face-to-face faculty as your lead instructors, but hire part-time individuals to handle grading and daily course interactions.
  • Don’t burn out your faculty. Make sure new faculty have a thorough understanding of the time commitment required for teaching online, and then provide them with the resources for managing their course effectively. Penn State provides its faculty with a document that’s essentially a detailed weekly to-do list from before the class begins to the last day of class.
  • Hire a course manager to oversee your online courses. This person can be on campus or remote and is there to train new instructors, conduct quality checks and perform other program-level duties.
  • Give new faculty the experience of being an online student. An online orientation program, which requires new faculty to participate in online discussion, submit assignments using the CMS, and navigate through the program as a student, can go a long way in helping new faculty gain valuable perspective.
  • Have new instructors “shadow” existing instructors before teaching alone.
  • Provide new instructors with a “master copy” of the course that can be customized and personalized.

View a brief clip from the seminar:

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