Community College Instructors’ Perceptions of the Influence of Online Best Teaching Practices on Student Outcomes.

Concurrent Session 8

Brief Abstract

Faculty perception can facilitate and improve the quality of education and is an important catalyst in course success.  As such, it is necessary to comprehend faculty perception to positively impact the quality and success of each course. This presentation will discuss how community college instructors perceive the influence of online best teaching practices—pedagogical, technical and content knowledge—on student outcomes.

Presenters

Doctoral student at Concordia-Portland University

Extended Abstract

Online education has completely changed the education landscape and has brought many challenges and innovations (Gayton, 2015). As the popularity of online courses has grown, so has the need for educators to comprehend and utilize new technology, to implement new pedagogical techniques, and to transfer content knowledge from an instructor-led environment to an online environment (Alexander-Bennett, 2016).  According to the Distance Education Enrollment Report, written by Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman (2017) “online course enrollment has been increasing year over year, with over 6 million students taking at least one online course in 2015” (p. 2; Alverson, Schwartz & Shultz, 2018, p. 1).  As today’s academic environment continually evolves,  new technologies are being created as students and teachers are becoming more technologically savvy (Holzweiss, Joyner, Fuller, Henderson, & Young, 2014; Mork, 2011; Keengwe & Kidd, 2010).  In addition, researchers are identifying new methods and practices for faculty to implement when teaching online courses (Keengwe & Kidd, 2010; Wentworth, Graham, & Tripp, 2008).  There are numerous publications and organizations, which describe best practices for teaching online courses, such as Quality Matters, Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and the National Standards for Online Courses iNAOCL.  Instructors teaching online courses utilize guidelines, called best practices, to provide a safe and effective environment for student learning.  Oxford Dictionary defines best practice as “a working method or set of working methods that is officially accepted as being the best to use” (Best Practice, 2017).  Best practices have been developed to provide students the greatest opportunity for success and learning while taking an online course (Sternke, 2016; Irlbeck, 2008).  

Best practices can be associated with corporations, process re-engineering, manufacturing, leadership and healthcare (Hamilton, 2011, Cook & Steinert, 2013).  This phrase identifies a process or task, which is defined as the best available at that time.  However, best practices do not only define teaching; they include technology, instruction, pedagogy, techniques, styles and support services (Keengwe & Kidd, 2010).  In addition, the popularity of online courses has influenced best practices and the need to study student retention (Gayton, 2015).  Retention is critically important to student success and the institution (Ice, Gibson, Boston, & Becher, 2011, p. 1). Teaching in an online environment is different from face-to-face or traditional learning environment. However, regardless of the delivery method, the same quality is required in an online environment (Mattila & Mattila, 2017; Schwartz, 2010).  The online environment allows anyone with internet access and a computer the ability to take courses.  Classroom participation is not bound by a physical location, the need for students to be present during set times, or the student-teacher relationship (Ice, et al., 2011; Sloan Consortium, 2009).  As the online environment continues to grow and expand, faculty need to develop new pedagogical skills.  Familiarity with new technology as well as faculty attitudes, assumptions and perception need to be reviewed and understood (Cherry & Flora, 2017; Schwartz, 2010; Bailey & Card, 2009).  This descriptive case study will review and examine instructors’ perception of online best teaching practices—pedagogical, technical and content knowledge—as an influencer on student outcomes. 

Community College administrators identify the additional effort faculty need to deliver online course as a barriers to online education (Allen & Seaman, 2015) and administrators identify that only 28% of their faculty believe in the faculty accept the “value and legitimacy of online education” (Allen & Seaman, 2015).  In addition, Allen and Seaman (2015) identified that faculty members do not believe in the value or legitimacy of online education (Allen & Seaman, 2015).  This means that while online education continues to grow in acceptance by administrators, faculty’s perception may still not be favorable.

Combine an online curriculum with a community college population which tend to be more at-risk than a traditional students.  Research has shown that students in a community college setting tend to perform worse in an online environment than in a traditional face-to-face environment, despite the popularity, strategic importance, and availability of best practices (Allen & Seaman, 2015).  Teaching in an online environment is different from the face-to-face or traditional learning environment, but the same quality is required in an online environment regardless of the delivery method.  Faculty perception is an important driver in student success and their perception can improve the quality of education, institutional values and the mission statement of the college.  Faculty perception is an important catalyst in course success (Cherry & Flora, 2017; Ezzeldin & Nadir, 2017; Otter, et al., 2013; Twila, Meling, Andaverdi, Galindo, Madrigal and Kupczynski, 2011; Schwartz, 2010; Bailey & Card, 2009).  As such, it is necessary to comprehend faculty perception to positively impact the quality and success of each course.  Faculty perception is an important driver in higher education (Ezzeldin & Nisar, 2017). Faculty have a significant impact on pedagogical strategy, how and what type of technology is utilized, and the autonomy or academic freedom to teach (Ezzeldin & Nisar, 2017; Curran, 2008).  In addition, faculty perception can facilitate improvements in the quality of education, communication, institutional values, mission statement and ethos (Ezzeldin & Nisar, 2017; Curran, 2008).  Faculty perception also influences professional development by identifying gaps which can help guide administration in designing faculty development for effective online education (Elliott, 2017). 

Institutions need to not only offer online courses, but they need to have the quality of online instruction be at least comparable to that of the traditional classroom.  Research, data, technology or best practices are only tools, they alone cannot impact student success or outcomes.  To impact student success or outcomes in a classroom, institutions should know understand faculty’s reactions to the tools being implemented. How can an institution deliver a quality course without taking into account faculty perceptions?  Faculty are the key driver in influencing how students’ perform in a classroom.  Think about a course you have taken where the faculty was engaging, helpful and supportive. How did you do in the course?  Now think about a course where you had the opposite experience.  How did you feel in that course?  Did you perform better or worse?  Did you drop the course and tell all of your friends not to take the course?  The same can be said for an online course.  There is research published daily defining new technology, best practices and their impacts.  However, without faculty buy-in these tools and techniques are only that … tools.  Faculty have significant impact on pedagogical strategy, how and what technology is utilized and the autonomy or academic freedom to teach.  Understanding how faculty perceive the influences of online best teaching practices—pedagogical, technical and content knowledge—on student outcomes can assist institutions in enhancing professional development and improving processes for reviewing tools, techniques and, finally, do what we all want, which is to positively impact student outcomes.

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