Implementation of a Research Colloquium Series

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Brief Abstract

This paper describes the development and implementation of a research colloquium series for online faculty and doctoral students. The study described here provides an analysis of the impact of participation in the newly developed colloquium series on faculty work engagement and related constructs. Focus groups will be utilized to gain feedback on faculty engagement.

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Donna DiMatteo-Gibson is the MIO and DIOP Online Program Director. She is in charge of managing the development and facilitation of the Industrial/Organizational psychology programs and certifications within these departments. She received her Bachelors of Arts in both Speech Communications and Psychology from the University of San Diego in 1994. She also obtained two Masters of Science degrees in the areas of general psychology and industrial-organizational psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP), which is now called Alliant International University. In June of 1999, she graduated from CSPP with a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. She has been teaching online graduate and undergraduate courses since 2001 and enjoys it immensely! Donna has developed many online courses as well as evaluated curriculum in the psychology field. She has provided evaluations and coaching opportunities to her colleagues and finds the collegial discussions very rewarding. She often makes professional presentations on topics, such as organizational effectiveness and distance learning. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, exercising and spending time at the beach!
Dr. Michelle Dennis serves as Chair of the Department of Leadership and Applied Psychology at Adler University’s Online Campus. She has held various positions in the field of higher education over the past 18 years and previously worked as a statistician. Her research interests include engagement, best-practices in the delivery of online education, personality and interpersonal problems.

Extended Abstract

This study explores the implementation and impact of a Research Colloquium Series in the Online Campus of a mid-sized University. Participation in the series is investigated as a factor which may contribute to levels of engagement among faculty. Aspects of the series, such as content and format, will be evaluated in terms of Self-Determination Theory.

The construct of employee engagement has been described as an emotional commitment to an organization and its mission (Byrne, Peters & Weston, 2016). Employee engagement in the field of higher education  is explored in terms of its impact on faculty retention and job satisfaction (Hakeem & Gulzar, 2015). Additionally, work engagement has been shown to impact performance among higher education faculty (Deligero & Laguador, 2014). Communities of practice have also been shown to contribute to faculty engagement (Golden, 2016).

Research by Dolan (2011) describes the potential for isolation in online faculty. Professional development can be utilized to create a sense of community among adjunct faculty (Surak & Pope, 2016; Webb, Wong & Hubball, 2013). Research indicates that faculty may choose not to engage in online communities due to workload and perceptions that engagement is not a part of their formal position (Khalid, Joyes, Ellison & Daud, 2014). As engagement impacts student satisfaction, incorporating activities which encourage faculty to feel connected to their institutions is of paramount importance. Synchronous sessions have been shown to contribute to faculty engagement with students (Haung & E.-Ling, 2012; Kreie, Johnson & Lebsock, 2017; Lowenthal, Snelson & Dunlap, 2017; Park & Bonk, 2007).

Mueller, Mandernach & Sanderson (2013) report that students working with full time faculty report higher levels of engagement. This may be due to the levels of engagement experienced by full-time and adjunct faculty.  Steps can be taken to increase engagement among adjunct faculty.

Specifically, Benton & Li (2015) looks at the role of the Department Chair in developing a sense of community among online adjunct faculty. Meixner, Kruck & Madden (2010) describe considerations for the inclusion of part-time faculty in departmental activities. Smith (2015) depicts challenges which are often associated with mentoring faculty in a web-based learning environment due to a lack of physical proximity and recommends the incorporation of meaningful dialogue and relationship building, in concert with an emphasis on training and development.

The benefits of learning communities have been explored (Jackson, Stebleton & Laanan (2013) and established as a strategy for developing authentic relationships with students and increased levels of engagement. Service-learning seminars for faculty  can be shown to increase engagement (Borrero & Reed, 2016). Additionally, online open courses for faculty development demonstrate a positive impact on faculty satisfaction (Moskal, Thompson & Futch, 2015). Research by Loversidge & Demb (2015) indicates that faculty tend to have positive perceptions of interprofessional education.

Renner (2017) reports that involving faculty in online research communities is an effective way to create engagement. Research by Vines (2010) describes the potential impact of informal peer colloquia on engagement among law students. Van den Berg, Bakker & Cate (2013) focuses on key factors which impact work engagement and job motivation among teaching faculty. These factors include teaching about one’s specialty, noting appreciation for teaching from one’s direct supervisor, teaching small groups, feedback on performance and freedom to determine content taught. These factors  are shown to align with the basic needs articulated in Self-Determination Theory (Martinek, 2019).

Self-Determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) provides a framework from which to analyze motivation. Intrinsic motivation relates to factors internal to the individual which serve to impact action. For instance, interest may serve as an intrinsic facet of motivation. External motivation refers to factors outside of the individual which may impact action. For instance, rewards serve as external motivators. Self-Determination Theory posits that intrinsic motivation may be facilitated by social and cultural factors. Autonomy, competence and relatedness are all factors which  impact action, thereby contributing to level of performance, degree of persistence and level of engagement (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

With respect to faculty engagement, the theory of Self-Determination would predict that a sense of autonomy in the work environment may reduce perceptions of workload and stress and contribute to motivation. Additionally, faculty perceptions of the degree to which learning community initiatives are related to their interests and roles should impact outcomes (Beachboard, Beachboard, Li and Adkinson (2011). 

The Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (DIOP) program at Adler University’s Online Campus employs 3 full-time and 10 adjunct faculty members. Engaging adjunct faculty members is of paramount importance in online doctoral programs, given the necessary emphasis on research and student mentorship. The development of the Research Colloquium Series Model (see Appendix A) was precipitated by administrator needs regarding the alignment of faculty and student research interests for the purposes of Dissertation Chair recommendations, faculty needs regarding scheduled time to discuss research with students and student needs regarding mentorship and engagement surrounding the research process.  

The Research Colloquium Series provides faculty teaching for the DIOP program with the opportunity to present planned, ongoing and/or complete research projects in which they are involved during synchronous program-wide meetings. Additionally, faculty may present on topics proposed by doctoral students with relevance to the research process. Faculty and doctoral students come together outside of the online course room and meet via Zoom web conferencing software. Meetings are scheduled once per semester and the duration of each meeting is 1 hour. The series has the following aims: Engage faculty and students outside of the online course room in meaningful ways, thereby contributing to the development of community; Maximize meaningful interactions in a synchronous environment, thereby contributing to student and faculty engagement; Provide faculty and students with a forum to discuss research; Provide faculty with opportunities to mentor students throughout the research process.

The first meeting was conducted on September 26, 2018 and focused on investigating leadership, diversity and inclusion.  The current study investigates faculty perceptions of the impact and utility of the Research Colloquim Series described above through the administration of a Faculty Experience Survey (see Appendix B). Survey question design was informed by research on the construct of engagement and the assessment of faculty satisfaction. Henrie, Halverson & Graham (2015) evaluated the mediation of learning experiences by technology in a review of the literature on scales which assess behavioral, cognitive and emotional indicators of engagement. Bolliger & Wasilik, (2009) report that student, instructor and institution factors contribute to faculty satisfaction and that student factors demonstrate the highest potential to generate satisfaction among faculty, while institutional factors, such as workload allocation and technology issues contribute most strongly to faculty dissatisfaction. The following research questions will be evaluated from a faculty perspective:

1. Does the series build academic community in online courses?

2. Does the series impact student perceptions of faculty presence?

3. Does the series impact perceived faculty engagement?

4. Does the series have additional impacts?

5. What improvements to the model do students recommend?

6.  How effective was the series implementation?