Exploring Innovative Ways to Motivate Faculty to Stay On-Track with Online Course Development

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Join in an interactive discussion exploring ways to motivate faculty in online course development through timing of stipends, instructional design support, and other incentives.


Darlene is Assistant Director for Digital Learning, Stearns Center, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA. As Assistant Director, Darlene’s role focuses on quality in online courses and programs, including online faculty development, services, and support. As part of the Stearns Center Digital Learning Quality Assurance (QA) Team, she conducts online course audits and reviews at Mason to guide online course and teaching improvements. With her 20 years of experience in online teaching, Darlene offers an instructor’s perspective to faculty. She shares guidance, practical tips, and resources for teaching and facilitating online courses and actionable feedback for course improvement. Darlene received her PhD in Anthropology from UCLA. After years as a biomedical researcher, Darlene then assumed a career in higher education administration and teaching. Before Mason, she worked at the University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus) as the Academic Director of the social science online undergraduate program. She managed faculty and oversaw the design, redesign, and quality of courses social science undergraduate degree program. She also taught online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses as a collegiate professor and was recognized by the university for engaging and learner-centered teaching.

Extended Abstract

Exploring Innovative Ways to Motivate Faculty to Stay On-Track with Online Course Development

Darlene Smucny, Ph.D. and Stephen Nodine, Ph.D.

Office of Distance Education, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030

Extended Abstract

How to incentivize faculty for online course development and delivery? As subject matter experts and instructors, faculty play a critical role in the development and expansion of online education. At the same time, faculty also may pose challenging barriers to the growth of quality online programs, by their resistance or lack of buy-in to online education. To encourage faculty to participate in online course design, online course delivery, and online professional development, many higher education institutions (i.e., up to 70% of institutions surveyed by Herman, 2013) provide some type of faculty incentives. However, institutions and faculty may not always agree about the type, amount, and value of such incentives. As reported in several studies, faculty often rank the institutional incentives for developing and delivering their online courses to be below average (e.g., Allen and Seaman, 2008; Seaman, 2009; Herman, 2013).

Even when faculty are committed to online education, they may lack time and/or lose motivation to stay on-track with recommended online course development timelines. Course development then may be stalled or progress unevenly, with some faculty faced with the challenges of designing, building, and teaching an online course simultaneously, potentially compromising quality of the online learning experience.

Is it possible for institutions to provide faculty incentives to ensure that faculty stay on-track with online course development? Using the online course development process at George Mason University (Office of Distance Education) as a discussion starter, participants in this session will explore how the type and timing of incentives could have the potential to promote more consistent faculty engagement throughout the online course development and delivery process.

The session outcomes include:

(1) To appraise the effectiveness of extrinsic incentives in motivating faculty toward online innovation.
(2) To examine the types of extrinsic incentives which institutions may provide for faculty for online course development and delivery.
(3) To share strategies for the timing of faculty incentives during online course development, and how this may motivate faculty to stay on-track with the recommended course development timeline.

In this session, we will explore how the timing and scheduling of faculty incentives may help address concerns with the timely progress of online course development. We will discuss ideas for alternatives to monetary incentives, and engage participants in an interactive discussion of best practices and strategies for faculty incentives for online course development.

References Cited

Allen, I., & Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008 | Online Learning Consortium, Inc. Retrieved from: http://olc.onlinelearningconsortium.org/publications/survey/staying_course

Herman, J. (2013). Faculty Incentives for Online Course Design, Delivery, and Professional Development. Innovations in Higher Education, 38, 397-410. doi:10.1007/s10755-012-9248-6

Seaman, J. (2009). Online Learning as a Strategic Asset. Volume II: The Paradox of Faculty Voices--Views and Experiences with Online Learning. Washington, DC: Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.