Analyzing faculty job postings: Comparison of online, face-to-face, and hybrid positions

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Online, face-to-face, and hybrid faculty job postings were compared regarding employment variables to ascertain the similarities and differences between the categories. Schedule (part-time/full-time), tenure, length of position, function (research/teaching/mixed), compensation, and benefits were examined. Results will be discussed specifically and in the context of higher education.

Presenters

Online educator and administrator for Penn State's Organizational Leadership program. For more details, please visit my CV: http://sites.psu.edu/movingpsychology/c-v/

Extended Abstract

There are a lot of stories regarding online education’s effect on modern academic institutions. For example, many predict the end of face-to-face higher education in favor of completely online-based education on anecdotal evidence from personal experience or hearsay. Even the small amounts of empirical evidence regarding online faculty positions such as those provided by the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics are limited in their descriptive, let alone predictive, powers. As such, this research project attempted to look deeper into the actual state of online higher education faculty positions in comparison to face-to-face and hybrid positions by examining both 1. longitudinal trends in job postings as well as 2. comparisons between the groups regarding some specific employment variables. In order to address the aforementioned gap in the research, this project asked several questions:

  1. What is the overall number of faculty job postings for online compared to face-to-face and hybrid for the same time period?

  2. What is the growth rate for online, face-to-face, and hybrid faculty job postings for the same time period?

  3. How are the job postings for online, face-to-face, and hybrid faculty job postings similar? E.g. job type, salary, benefit, duration, etc.

  4. How are the job postings for online, face-to-face, and hybrid faculty job postings different? E.g. job type, salary, benefit, duration, etc.

This presentation will discuss the data collected to answer the above questions regarding trends in employment opportunities for online, face-to-face, and hybrid faculty. Additionally, it will discuss the methodology of using publically available higher education data and the analysis of that data. Finally, it will discuss how our particular results fit into the broader context of the trends of higher education--for example, how our data fits with the reports such as the Allen and Seaman’s (2014) Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States.

The job postings that were analyzed spanned a two year period (May 2013 through May 2015) and were compared on several key employment variables: schedule of position (part-time or full-time), format of position (online, face-to-face, or hybrid), tenure, length of position, function of position (research, teaching, or mixed-load), compensation, and benefits. Data for each of these categories was gathered, analyzed, and interpreted.

Originally this research was intended to examine two major sets of faculty job postings (online and face-to-face). However, it was quickly realized that hybrid positions ended up being a significant portion of the job postings when researchers were collating the data, and as such, it was added to the dataset and research questions early on. This inclusion turned out to be a fruitful and informative for the found patterns, as will be elaborated on in the presentation.

The specific results show both expected and unexpected patterns. Those most notable were found in the number of differences between online, face-to-face, and hybrid faculty job positions. In this summary, a quick overview of those differences is provided, so that OLC can decide whether the presentation suits the conference’s needs. The overall number of job postings in the final data sample was 5,687. Out of this total, 4,492 were categorized as face-to-face positions, and 1,070 were categorized as hybrid positions (meaning the position included both online and face-to-face duties). Only 125 job postings were classified as fully online positions. Growth rates for all three categories increased over that time span with the growth rate for face-to-face being the highest at 14%, compared to 10% for online and 2% for hybrid positions.

Notable differences were found amongst the three job formats on almost all variables for which data was collected, and those differences will be the focus of the presentation. For example, the numbers of part-time versus full-time positions offered for each of the different formats varied in their respective proportions. Both online and hybrid positions were primarily part-time positions, while the face-to-face job postings were primarily full-time positions.

The primary job duties of the faculty position, which were classified as either teaching, research, or combination (including both teaching and research duties) also varied. The vast majority of online job postings indicated teaching as the primary duty, with none being research only positions. A similar pattern was found for hybrid positions. All three categories had fewer research-focused positions than teaching or combined. However, while the face-to-face positions had a similar pattern, there were some significant differences in the distribution across the job duties. Specifically, there were a significant portion that were research only for face-to-face, as well as a higher percentage of combination duties.

The job duty differences can partially be explained by differences in the availability of tenure. All three faculty job postings had high rates of non-tenure track positions, but face-to-face was most likely to have tenure or tenure-track as an option offered to qualified candidates. Online positions showed the least amount of tenure-related information, while the hybrid job postings fell halfway in between online and face-to-face. Face-to-face clearly had the highest rate of tenure information. It is of particular note that online job postings were the only medium that showed no full tenure positions available.

Another difference amongst online, hybrid, and face-to-face faculty positions was the duration of the employment contract. For online job postings, few mentioned the length of employment contract and no job postings indicated that the position had a contract lasting longer than 1 year. Hybrid and face-to-face job postings mentioned the length of employment contract in similar percentages. Somewhat surprisingly, based on other findings of this study, face-to-face faculty job postings were the only format that showed a higher percentage of temporary roles lasting less than 1 year.

    Benefits were mentioned in similar percentages for hybrid and face-to-face job postings. For online job postings, benefits were mentioned at a much lower rate. Related to benefits, compensation was also compared for the faculty job postings.

The low-end compensation was similar for both hybrid and face-to-face faculty positions. However the high-end compensation was significantly higher for face-to-face than hybrid. The compensation for online faculty was significantly lower than the other two categories. However, there are some caveats regarding methodology and the data that will be discussed in more detail in the presentation.

    From this data, particularly the differences noted above, it is concluded that online and face-to-face positions are trending towards serving different populations and needs, specifically with online serving primarily as traditional content teaching and face-to-face having more of a research focus. Hybrid positions seem to span the two purposes with the nature of the position depending on the institution’s needs. Additionally, all three types of positions grew over the examined time period. So rather than competing lines of faculty, the types actually seem to be diverging in purpose, yet growing together. As such, they actually are more complementary and cooperative in the modern educational world rather than competitive.

    Further details regarding the methodology, data, results, context in the larger picture of higher education, and other conclusions will be discussed in the presentation, along with other implications and further research directions.

 

Reference

Allen, I.E., & Seaman, J. (2014). Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States. Retrieved at: http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/gradechange.pdf