help online adjuncts feel connected
With part-time faculty now the majority of instructors at most higher education institutions, it’s important to provide them with the support they need to succeed. But what kind of support do they find most useful? The answer to this question can help administrators meet adjuncts’ needs and make the best use of limited resources.
In online higher education, adjunct faculty members are an essential resource. These faculty members teach, research, perform service and outreach, and even oversee administrative aspects of higher education institutions (Doe, Barnes, Bowen, Gilkey, Smoak, Ryan, & Palmquist, 2011). Unfortunately, adjunct faculty members often feel isolated and set apart from the full-time faculty, administration, and staff. Dolan (2011) reported adjunct faculty members are generally disappointed with communication, recognition, and a lack of opportunity. One way to improve a sense of belonging is through the development of a strong professional learning community. A successful learning community is primarily focused on student learning, collaboration, and accountability for outcomes (DuFour, 2004).
The Department of Behavioral Sciences at St. Louis Community College-Meramec is a diverse department with 16 full-time and 53 adjunct faculty. In an effort to connect those adjuncts to the department, Darlaine Gardetto and some of her colleagues created an adjunct professional development program focused on improving teaching based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.
Retention is a big challenge for online programs, but it’s not just a matter of student retention. Faculty retention is just as important. Because geography doesn’t dictate where online instructors can work, they can cast a wide net when looking for a job and don’t necessarily need to stay loyal to their current employer.
As institutions increase their reliance on part-time and non-tenure-track faculty, the issues of equity and instructional quality take on more importance. One way to address these issues is to integrate non-tenure-track faculty into the culture of the department and institution. In this article, we highlight how the composition program in the English department at Appalachian State University is making this cultural change.
Editor’s Note: In yesterday’s article, the authors introduced steps for overcoming some of the administrative challenges when working with part-time faculty. Here, in part two of the article, they outline strategies for overcoming some of the pedagogical challenges.
Adjunct faculty make up approximately half of all instructional faculty in degree-granting institutions (National Center for Education Statistics, 2008). Some teach online and some in a traditional classroom-based setting. Some work at private colleges, others for large public universities, and still others at community colleges. Adjuncts represent a diverse group professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds, but they do have at least one thing in common: they’re under increased scrutiny to demonstrate their effectiveness.
The number of adjunct faculty teaching at colleges and universities continues to rise dramatically. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 44 percent of faculty and instructional staff at all institutions in fall 2003 were part-time employees compared with 33 percent in 1987, the first year of data collection.
If your institution offers online courses, you know that finding quality adjuncts is only half of the staffing battle. Keeping them is sometimes even more difficult. Defections are common as adjuncts report feeling disconnected from the campus community they serve, and there’s always competition from others schools who may offer a better pay rate.