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).
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
retaining online adjuncts
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.
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.