Moving Mountains to Support Online Adjuncts

Concurrent Session 8
Streamed Session Best in Track Leadership

Watch This Session

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learn how the Raymond A. School of Business at William & Mary is combining research-based best practices with innovative strategies to support, develop, engage, and retain high-quality online adjuncts in their growing portfolio of online programs.


Ali Blankinship is the inaugural Director of Instructional Affairs for Online Programs at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at William & Mary. In this newly created role, Ali is a key member of the online programs senior leadership team, leading the School's efforts to recruit, develop, and engage the School's growing population of high-quality online section leaders and part-time instructors. In her previous role, Ali was the eLearning Manager at WHRO Education. While there, she oversaw the development of online courses, supervised Instructional Designers, and was responsible for hiring, training, and supporting contracted content developers and course reviewers. Before WHRO, Ali worked as an Instructional Designer for William & Mary as well as an Instructional Technology Specialist at the K-12 level. She has more than ten years of experience in the field of education and has collaborated with instructors at all levels and modalities. Ali is pursuing a doctoral degree in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership as a part-time student from the School of Education at William & Mary. Her coursework focuses on leadership as it relates to educational technology, online teaching and learning, and higher education.

Extended Abstract

Topic Importance:

As postsecondary institutions continue to increase online course offerings, the demand for qualified faculty to facilitate online courses also increases. Due to workload and other academic responsibilities, the supply of full-time faculty available to teach online is smaller than the demand for online courses. To meet this demand, postsecondary institutions are turning to adjunct faculty to facilitate online courses.

Adjunct faculty make-up a large portion of the total professoriate, but the nature of their part-time positions exclude them from a number of institutional benefits and support provided to full-time faculty. While many adjuncts are attracted to the flexibility and autonomy of part-time teaching, they also experience feelings of disengagement from the institutions they serve. They are also aware of disadvantages such as lack of advancement and job security.

Online adjuncts face similar issues as adjuncts who teach on-campus; however, the physical distance between online adjuncts and their institution, colleagues, and students creates a new set of challenges. Research on the challenges specific to online adjuncts is growing, but less is known about how to help online adjuncts overcome challenges unique to the online environment.

The rapidly increasing demand for online courses makes it even more difficult to retain high-quality online adjuncts, especially if they know they will receive more support at another institution. Without committed, high-quality online adjuncts, educational quality decreases and student learning suffers, putting the institution’s reputation at risk. To attract and retain high-quality online adjuncts, post-secondary institutions must be aware of the challenges online adjuncts experience and best practices for supporting them.

Session Outline:

In this session, participants will learn how the Raymond A. School of Business at William & Mary is combining research-based best practices with innovative strategies to support, develop, engage, and retain high-quality online adjuncts in their growing portfolio of online programs.

During the first 30 minutes of the session, Ali Blankinship, the Director of Instructional Affairs for the Center for Online Programs, will describe:

  • The structure of online programs at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at William & Mary;
  • Her role and the process she underwent to identify the specific needs of the online adjunct faculty at the school of business;
  • The innovative programs she and her colleagues developed to support, develop, engage, and retain online adjuncts at the school of business; 
  • A summary of the research-based best practices that guided Ali and her colleagues; and
  • The ways the school of business will measure the success of this initiative.

As Ali presents, participants will be asked survey questions through PollEverywhere about what they are currently doing at their institutions to support, develop, engage, and retain online adjuncts. There will also be a backchannel so participants can ask questions that will be addressed before the 5-minute reflection period.

Guiding question for the 5-minute reflection period:

  • What is one thing you could implement in the next 1-3 months at your institution that would better support, develop, and/or engage your online adjuncts, ultimately leading to retention?

During the 10-minute discussion, participants will share their idea(s) from the 5-minute reflection in small groups. They will also be encouraged to tweet their ideas using the hashtags: #OLCInnovate #SupportOnlineAdjuncts

All presentation materials will be shared with conference attendees and posted to the conference website.