Quality guidelines for faculty support of online teaching

Concurrent Session 2

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Brief Abstract

This presentation focuses on quality indicators of institutional support services for faculty in online education. Based on a scoping review of existing international frameworks, benchmarks, and guidelines for quality in online learning, we will share quality indicators in four categories of faculty support with attendees and discuss their application in various contexts.

Presenters

Dr. Swapna Kumar is a Clinical Associate Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education, University of Florida. She directs the online doctorate in Educational Technology and studies online and blended learning in higher education. Her current research is focused on quality assurance in online programs and online mentoring in graduate education. Details of her publications can be found at http://www.swapnakumar.com

Extended Abstract

Online education has seen unprecedented growth in the last decade (Allen & Seaman, 2018). This growth has been accompanied by institutional investment in technology, resources and units for instructional design, implementation, and assessment of online courses and programs, learner support, and faculty support. Researchers have studied various aspects of online learning, and such research has been used to create quality guidelines and frameworks both in the US and abroad for the implementation of online learning. The guidelines and frameworks serve as benchmarks for institutions and educators embarking on online program development or seeking to improve their existing online education offerings.

In this research study, we reviewed existing international frameworks for online learning quality assurance with a focus on institutional support services for faculty. Faculty play a key role in the design and implementation of online education offerings (Baran & Correia, 2014; Martin & Parker, 2014), and faculty satisfaction with the online teaching experience can influence both the student learning experience and the success of online education (Almpanis, 2015). While acknowledging the importance of learner support and other indicators of quality, in our research we chose to ask the question – what institutional support services for faculty are identified in quality assurance frameworks as important to ensure quality online education offerings?

Almost all institutions that offer online education have ensured that some form of support is available to faculty who teach online. Following the adoption of frameworks for quality assurance (e.g. Quality Matters), there is some consensus on what constitutes a quality online course or what constitutions quality online teaching. However, quality in institutional support services for faculty is not as clearly defined. The purpose of our research was to analyze existing quality frameworks in order to determine areas for faculty support that are identified as contributing to quality online education.

 

Methodology

The methodology used for this research was a scoping review (Arksey & O'Malley, 2007; Pham et al., 2014), which included a search for frameworks, the application of exclusion criteria, then the application of inclusion criteria, and finally a process of detailed analysis. Following the initial search and exclusion criteria, seventeen initial international quality frameworks pertaining to online learning and e-learning that have been published within the last 20 years were identified. The application of inclusion criteria resulted in 13 international quality assurance frameworks, standards or guidelines. These were analyzed with the aim of identifying the different institutional support services that are crucial for the implementation of e-learning initiatives. In the analysis, we adopted a focus on institutional support and initiatives that targeted faculty support, first identifying the quality indicators, benchmarks or guidelines across frameworks that were present in this area, categorizing them, and finally analyzing the descriptions of the indicators or benchmarks within each category to curate what faculty support services are needed to ensure quality in online education.

Findings

The analysis resulted in fifteen distinct areas of support across the thirteen quality assurance frameworks. Of the fifteen, Information Technology/Helpdesk services (n=13) and administrative support (n=12) were found to be the most prevalent, followed by library support and instructional design. The findings resulted in the four larger categories of technical support, support for course development and teaching, administrative and academic services, and other support or incentives. These will be presented as a suggested best practice list and discussed in detail in the presentation, especially with respect to a) the phase of implementation of online education at an institution and b) centralized and decentralized institutional support structures. Furthermore, some quality indicators might be common to many institutions, but others might be context-specific (e.g. support areas such as legal services and resources for data protection, plagiarism, intellectual property, and open educational resources that are available to online faculty were emphasized in some frameworks).

Session format

We will first initiate a discussion with the attendees about faculty support services at their institutions or those that they find essential to quality online teaching. Following this, we will present our results and their implications for institutions. Finally, we will ensure time for a discussion of the findings and their application in various contexts.