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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

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Understanding Faculty Roles and Attitudes in Ready-To-Teach Online Courses

Pamela Quinn (Dallas County Community College District, USA)
Kaye Shelton (Lamar University, USA)
Diane Mason (Lamar University, USA)
Session Information
October 15, 2015 - 9:15am
Faculty and Professional Development & Support
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere E3
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 5

This research study presentation addresses the need to understand the unbundling of faculty roles and the attitudes of faculty teaching an online, ready-to-teach course.

Extended Abstract

One of the most radical changes in higher education is underway (Christensen, Horn, & Johnson, 2008; McClusky & Winter, 2012) as a result of the combination of the Internet and information technologies that has created a new delivery system for higher education (Shelton, 2010). This online environment has fostered a situation ripe for change in the teaching process and the unbundling of the faculty role (Bonk, 2009; Christensen et al., 2008; Christensen, Horn, Caldera, & Soares, 2011; Friedman, 2007). The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand the roles and attitudes of faculty teaching an online, ready-to-teach course.

Research Questions
1. What are the perceived roles and attitudes of faculty when teaching online master
2. What differences, if any, are there between the perceived attitudes of full-time
faculty compared to part-time faculty teaching online master courses?
3. What aspects of the transformed teaching role do faculty perceive as most satisfying?
4. What aspects of the transformed role do faculty perceive as least satisfying?

The qualitative phenomenological narrative approach provided a better understanding of teaching an online master course in an unbundled faculty role. Ten faculty interviews led to exploring the roles and attitudes associated with the common experience. Using a list of faculty members provided by the community college technology center and the strategy to identify subjects with content-rich cases, 10 faculty (five full time, five part-time) members representing five different community colleges and varying disciplines were selected to participate in the data collection process. Although course content differed by discipline, each course in this study was designed with the same template and course components with minor variation.

The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to understand the roles and attitudes of faculty teaching an online, ready-to-teach course. Research findings include:
• RQ#1 emergent themes: communication, availability, and encouragement.
• RQ#2 emergent themes indicated by full-time faculty: perceived ready-to-teach master courses as quality and consistency in content for part-timers; technology issues; and increased workload online. Emergent themes from part-time faculty: value of consistent course content, convenience and fit with adjunct faculty schedules; quality team-developed course content; and technology issues.
• RQ#3 emergent themes: quality of course content, consistent format, additional time with students, benefits for student learning, and lifestyle/schedule compatibility.
• RQ#4 emergent themes: technology issues, additional time on task, and lack of student engagement.
The study results concluded that both full-time and part-time faculty were very satisfied with the ready-to-teach courses and their role in facilitating instruction with students. Conclusions include:
• In the changing role of faculty in online courses, there are faculty are willing to change their roles and even their titles in the transformational evolution of higher education teaching (Christensen et al., 2008, 2011; Crawley et al., 2009).
• Faculty are not as resistant to teaching standardized courses if they have trust in the course developers, can add or delete assignments, and believe the courses provide quality content, visual appeal, and good course navigation beyond what they could develop on their own (Moore, 2013).
• When faculty do not need to develop or maintain course content, they can spend more time providing students with what they need most: individual and timely communication, encouragement, and feedback (Menchaca & Bekele, 2008).
• All faculty believed that teaching online is not the same as teaching in the classroom.
• With more time to spend with students, instructors perform the role students want most in an online course—communication and feedback (Wyatt, 2005).
• Despite frustrations with technology, the online, ready-to-teach courses worked better than what they could create on their own (Bolliger & Wasilik, 2009; Bonk, 2009).

The following suggestions and implications for practice are offered:
1. When hiring part-time faculty to teach online, supervisors should strongly consider assigning these pre-produced master courses to adjuncts. Since adjuncts are often hired at the last minute or may lack teaching experience, these courses would allow adjuncts to teach online and focus on providing students with their content knowledge expertise. Because studies such as Allen & Seaman (2013) show that online enrollments continue to rise, this allows a way to scale up more online classes.
2. When adopting a ready-to-teach course, faculty spend little or no time on course development. With the use of standardized content, faculty have more time to spend with individual student needs. Consequently, campus leaders and faculty supervisors should offer and require adequate training for faculty so they use their time to create student engagement.
3. Since instructors can often teach more sections because they can flex their schedules with teaching online, administrators need to offer both full-time and adjunct faculty options to teach online as an incentive to attract and keep good faculty.
4. To decrease faculty frustration with technology problems and courseware functionality in ready-to-teach courses, campus leaders can do three things: provide more training, acquire or develop better master courses, and offer increased technical support.
5. Although many faculty choose to develop their own courses because they like technology or want to express their academic freedom, faculty supervisors need to monitor the quality of their courses. As younger, more media and tech-savvy students enter higher education, they will expect quality courses (Blackmon & Major, 2012) such as a ready-to-teach course. The use of high quality, scalable courses has appeal and benefits to both faculty and students.
6. Just as not all students should take an online course, not all faculty should be required to teach an online class. The findings in this study show that faculty believe online teaching is a different experience requiring training, good courses, and online teaching skills.