HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
online faculty retention
I have been an online educator for almost 10 years and feelings of isolation and complacency were familiar companions on my teaching journey. Many virtual work environments lacked channels for educators like myself to connect and maintain meaningful conversations and I longed to build a sense of community with my colleagues in the field. The constant dripping of policy changes from the top made for limited self-reflection and minimal opportunities for collaboration. Departmental attempts at transformative shifts in work culture were captured in ephemeral professional development methods that operated on low frequency when it came to encouraging personal growth and knowledge creation.
Technology has enabled a boom in online education. No longer does location dictate where students can take classes and/or where instructors can teach. While this increased flexibility is appealing to many, it can also lead to feelings of disconnect and isolation (Dolan, 2011). As educational leaders, we want to be able to connect with the instructors who are teaching in our programs. As faculty, we want to be included in professional development opportunities and conversations about curriculum with our peers. But how can this be accomplished when people are not available at the same time or located in the same place? Well, by using technology.
We know that strong leaders empower and genuinely care for those whom they lead. That empowerment and care is not expressed by the words they speak, but by their everyday interactions with the people around them.
In academic settings, leaders serve as models for how faculty can more effectively empower students. If these leaders are simply calling it in, then their faculty, especially new faculty, may experience dissatisfaction in the workplace and may eventually follow those negative examples. In the online world where facial expressions and body language are not visible, it is vital that online faculty deans adopt a ‘virtual body language’ that demonstrates a genuine interest in their faculty. Here are some tips for online faculty deans that may lead to a more positive faculty experience and even stronger faculty engagement and performance.
Regardless of how much teaching experience you have, there’s often a good measure of anxiety when you teach your very first online course. Beyond the pedagogical hurdles, you wonder if students will be able to tell that you’re new to the online classroom, whom you can turn to for tech support, and how you can be more efficient with your time.
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.
Part-time faculty make essential contributions to our programs. Their part-time status often limits their contact with other faculty and their knowledge about the program in which they are teaching. Program coordinators and directors often provide the only contact between the two, and so play a critical but challenging leadership role. However, coordinators may also tend to work in isolation from one another and may lack opportunities to share experiences and learn from one another.
Institutions of higher education nearly always feel a budgetary crunch, and this holds true for online programs. However, the costs of running a successful online program run far beyond the expected line items of salaries, technology, and marketing. Faculty turnover and attrition can bring a number of serious but unanticipated costs to a program, costs that are may be poorly understood due to a lack of research identifying these costs.
As colleges and universities continue to expand their online course offerings, increasingly they’re turning to adjuncts to teach the courses. This report features proven strategies for ensuring your distance education faculty have the necessary training and support to succeed.