Exploring Faculty Attitudes Towards Online Teaching and Learning at a Large Public University System

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This qualitative research study explores faculty perspectives about online teaching and learning at a large public university system and how and in what context those attitudes are shaped. The results of this study offer implications for professional development and educational theory and practice.

Presenters

Daphne Jorgensen is a doctoral student at the University at Albany’s Department of Educational Theory and Practice working on her dissertation research about faculty attitudes towards online teaching and learning. As the Assistant Dean for Online Learning at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, she is responsible for the online course and program initiatives of the college. Ms. Jorgensen has served as an adjunct instructor since 2002 and enjoys teaching online.

Extended Abstract

The proliferation of online courses within traditional institutions of higher education has steadily increased over the last decade. Some colleges and universities are only experiencing enrollment growth within their online offerings, and in spite of declining campus-based enrollments in higher education, the rate of online enrollments remains extremely robust. Administrators at 63 percent of higher education institutions across America believe “online education is critical to the long-term strategy” of their institution. However, in spite of that, many of these administrators believe their faculty do not accept the value and legitimacy of online teaching and learning, and that less than a third of their faculty are favorably disposed towards online education.

This opinion is reinforced by over a decade of national studies wherein it is well documented that a majority of US faculty hold negative attitudes about online education. If institutions of higher education are to offer vibrant quality online courses and programs, the support and adoption of faculty is critical. Understanding the factors that motivate or discourage faculty from participating in online instruction may help institutions to better support and prepare their faculty.

An investigation of faculty at a large public university system found much higher levels of acceptance among faculty than the aforementioned national studies. The follow-up qualitative research in this current study explores why faculty in that university system are much more accepting of the equivalence of online learning and classroom instruction than faculty in the national surveys. Using a four-quadrant model that includes both inexperienced and experienced online teaching faculty, with a range of positive and negative perspectives in both groups, researchers seek to discover what kinds of experiences lead to these perspectives.

Through the use of semi-structured interviews, researchers explore faculty perceptions about online teaching and learning and how and in what context those attitudes are shaped. Grounded theory and constant comparative analysis was applied to the semi-structured interviews of this study. Preliminary analysis of multiple interviews of participants in each of the four quadrants will be provided. The results of this study offer implications for professional development and educational theory and practice.