Online instructors receive poor evaluations for any number of reasons, including lack of experience, inadequate training, and poor communication skills. Other times, the poor reviews are more reflective of the course design than the instructor who’s teaching the course. That distinction is unimportant to the students.
In a recent online seminar, When Online Faculty Receive Low Evaluations: Guidelines and Advice, Dr. Kay Dennis, interim chair of the Adult Education Department at Park University, and Dr. Jeffery Alejandro, coordinator with the Division of Continuing Studies of East Carolina University, discussed proactive measures for reducing the number of online faculty who receive poor evaluations, as well as steps for improving the evaluations of poor performers.
Some of the proactive measures include:
Select faculty “most likely to succeed – Characteristics include an eagerness to learn and acquire new skills, knowledgeable about the subject matter and learning platform, able to use technology creatively and effective communication skills.
Offer effective, efficient training – Before turning faculty loose in an online course, you need to teach them how to use your institution’s learning platform, explain your school’s policies and procedures, ensure they’re familiar with best practices in online teaching, and provide adequate technical support and resources.
Use mentors – Each new online instructor should be paired with an experienced mentor who will work with them throughout the duration of the term. The mentor will not only model quality teaching practices, but will serve as an invaluable resource for online instructors who often feel isolated from the institution.
If, despite these and other proactive measures, instructors still receive poor course evaluations, it’s important to take immediate corrective actions. Dennis and Alejandro recommend the following:
Technical/instructional support – Help the instructor redevelop the course and provide technical advice as needed.
Training/retraining – Jointly identify the key issues that need improvement, student evaluations will provide helpful clues on where the instructor is deficient. Refresh their training based on specific challenges.
Reduce teaching load – If you believe in this person as an educator, “the aim is to improve not eliminate” says Dennis. If they’re an adjunct, consider reducing their teaching load to see if their evaluations improve.
The seminar also included discussion on many of the best practices in online education, including:
- Course organization and syllabus
- Instructional design
- Student support