A Comparative Typology of Student and Institutional Expectations of Online Faculty

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

Typically, online institutions have specific guidelines for faculty-to-student interactions; yet, student expectations of faculty may not necessarily align with institutional requirements.  This presentation will include a typological analysis of institutional requirements for online faculty in terms of student engagement. Then, student comments regarding faculty performance expectations will be compared. We will explore a framework of best practices which should be adopted by institutions to ensure online student satisfaction with faculty is maximized.


Melanie Shaw has spent the past decade teaching and serving as an administrator in online higher education settings. She is a professor in the School of Education at Northcentral University, where she works with students in the dissertation phase of their program. She also serves as an adjunct faculty at several institutions and facilitates webinars for the Online Learning Consortium. In addition to her teaching roles, she trains faculty to develop and deliver courses online, conducts research on topics related to nontraditional education, and is involved in strategic leadership relative to the vision for online education. Melanie’s primary research interests include online teaching and learning, organizational leadership, and distance learning instructional practices. She is the author of several books, articles, and chapters including: An Evaluation of Student Outcomes by Course Duration in Online Higher Education; Establishing an Online Professional Development Community to Promote Faculty Engagement and Excellence; Distance Learning Courses: A Survey of Activities and Assignments; and Online Course Activities: A Survey of Assignment and Assessment Types. She is the winner of the Wagner Award for Outstanding Instructional Support and the Online Learning Consortium’s Effective Practice Award. Melanie received a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Curriculum and Teaching from Northcentral University, a master’s degree in Education Administration from Grand Canyon University, and a second master’s degree in School Counseling for the University of West Alabama. She received her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and Music from Excelsior College. She holds teaching certificates in online teaching, elementary education, and guidance counseling. She is preparing for a move to New York City with her husband Paul, who is a jazz musician. Melanie has two adult children who live in Atlanta.

Extended Abstract

Online education has seen unmatched expansion in the past few decased, and universities and colleges across the country have expanded to meet consumer demand for online programs. Institutional leaders are challenged to identify and uphold instructional best practices that meet the expectations and needs of students, while not being overly arduous for faculty, who often serve many institutions through adjunct work. With student retention closely tied to student satisfaction, studying online faculty practices that enhance student experience, engagement, and enjoyment in the online academic setting can have important consequences for better understanding student retention.

This presentation will include findings from a research study that arose after numerous discussions with online faculty who shared institutional expectations of performance, which often differed from the literature on student perceptions of quality faculty performance. Student experience is an essential element that should drive faculty mentoring approaches; especially in the context of developing a positive relationship. Yet, there appears to be a gap in the literature about the role of student experience as a driver of faculty expectations.  

In order to ensure standards of faculty performance, many institutions dictate expectations that faculty must meet on a regular basis such as grading timelines, online course engagement, and student communication practices.  Online faculty members are often expected to comply with these expectations as a condition of continued employment. What remains unclear is if the expectations of the institution regarding faculty-to-student engagement align with what students expect from faculty. In this research study, a typology was developed whereby institutional expectations for online faculty-to-student engagement were grouped into themes. Then, an analysis of qualitative student feedback regarding their expectations for online faculty was sorted into those typologies to add rich experiential depth to the typology.  

The presenters will share the outcomes of the research and present a framwork of best practices that institutions might adopt to support faculty and students.