Influences on faculty in adopting online education

What are the organizational influences that affect how faculty members embrace, or do not embrace,  online tools and student engagement strategies in online learning?

Barker, Hovey and Gruning (2015) conducted a study on sixty-six Computer Science faculty members who were teaching courses in thirty-six postsecondary institutions in the United States.

The researchers’ findings demonstrate that many professors hear about new teaching strategies by participating in initiatives that are funded by the government and corporations or when they are motivated to solve a problem and thus search for new methods of teaching on their own (Barker et al., 2015). For example, if faculty members find that students are bored in their classrooms or if they are not quite grasping the content, professors are more motivated to look for strategies to engage their students. In terms of government and corporate initiatives,  conferences are one popular method that is used to gather instructors in one space to learn innovative methods. More importantly, the researchers state that (in some cases) faculty buy-in is best routinized when granting agencies for pilot projects are institutionalized (Barker et al., 2015).

Research is the main barrier to implementing reform in online education. Indeed, faculty members who engage in learning new strategies for their courses, do so at “their own risk (Barker et al., 2015).” Interestingly, research faculty members are not likely to use findings from educational research as a basis for changing their teaching techniques (Barker et. al., 2015). Rather, they are most influenced by the expectations of their university, its policies, the perceived cost and benefits (both for themselves and for their students) and by role models (Barker et. al., 2015).  Role models refer to any person in a professor’s network that is a respected teacher with proven results (e.g. stellar student evaluations), someone who is a respected researcher in their field or even their own former instructors (Barker et al., 2015). In terms of cost-benefit analyses, Barker et al. (2015) state that faculty either explicitly or implicitly weigh both costs and benefits of using new methods in their courses before implementing them. Some costs might be, for example, related to the amount of time spent on creating knowledge check-in quizzes for students versus spending time on research, which brings money into the school.

According to Barker et al. (2015), there are three stages of adopting teaching strategies. Those stages are awareness, experimentation, and routinization. 

Thoughts, additions? There’s a ton more to add here, but I’m leaving this here as a nugget for now.


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