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A Case Study of Faculty Development Needs in Distance Education. Kam Jugdev, PhD Associate Professor, Project Management and Strategy Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada kamj@athabascau.ca Heather Kanuka, PhD Academic Director, University Teaching Services

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a case study of faculty development needs in distance education

A Case Study of Faculty Development Needs in Distance Education

Kam Jugdev, PhD

Associate Professor, Project Management and Strategy

Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada


Heather Kanuka, PhD

Academic Director, University Teaching Services

Associate Professor, Educational Policy Studies, Faculty of Education,

University of Alberta, Canada


presentation outline
Presentation Outline
  • Trends in faculty development
  • Athabasca University TGIF study
  • Findings
  • Next steps

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scholarship tensions
Scholarship tensions
  • Scholarship of discovery, teaching, and practice (Boyer)
  • Perception that research is more valued than teaching
    • “Publish or perish”
    • Institutional incentives and reward for research
    • Research may be easier to assess than teaching
  • Compounded by the dynamics of teaching in distance education

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external trends in education
External Trends in Education
  • Increasing number of teaching centers
  • Increased use of technology and collaborative tools
  • Mediated learning practices

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sources of stress for new faculty
Sources of stress for new faculty
  • Balancing teaching and research time
  • Lack of collegial relationships
  • Inadequate feedback/recognition
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Insufficient resources
  • Lack of mentors
  • Lack of orientation
  • Work-life balance

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scope of faculty development programs
Scope of faculty development programs
  • Narrow to broad
    • Some promote all forms of scholarship throughout academic careers and others focus on new graduates
    • Include faculty + educational media staff + IT departments
  • Limited only by a university's scope, mission, and culture

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faculty development program success factors
Faculty development program success factors
  • Needs assessment
  • Gap analysis
  • Shared vision and culture to support teaching
  • Funding
  • Responsive to faculty needs
  • Voluntary participation
  • Faculty buy in
  • Meaningful incentives
  • Practical sessions
  • Mentoring
  • Workshops vs. Self learning

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faculty development issues
Faculty development issues
  • Sense of isolation
  • Time to prepare courses (2.5x longer than F2F)
    • What is a “normal” faculty workload in DE?
  • Roles and responsibilities*
    • Who has control over courses when educational media staff are involved?
    • Preparing courses to an administrative schedule
    • Limited flexibility, autonomy, course commodification, intellectual property
  • Technology currency, standardization

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athabasca university
Athabasca University
  • Canada’s leading distance education university
    • > 37,000 students/year
    • > 260,000 students since inception in 1970
    • > 650 faculty
    • Changing faculty demographic profile
    • Telework benefits and challenges
  • Take time for good instructional fun (TGIF) committee
    • Assess the quality of faculty work environment
    • Suggest faculty support needs
    • Orientations, surveys, workshops

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tigf committee
TIGF committee
  • Successful orientation feedback
    • Belonging, connecting, communicating, mentoring, sharing, physical presence in a distributed environment
  • “Investing in our Faculty” Report
    • Recommendations of annual orientation with university panels, a faculty development centre
  • Institutional survey
    • To better understand how we can provide continuous learning opportunities to improve teaching practices for academics who are teleworking
    • Survey based on Harrison’s (2002) review of university teaching quality (six topics)

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survey participants and response rate
Survey participants and response rate
  • Sent to 609 staff members
  • 187 responses (31%)
  • 85% (or 161) were teleworkers
  • Limitations
    • Self reported data
  • Publications
      • Kanuka, H., Jugdev, K., Heller, B., & West, D. (2008). The rise of the teleworker: False promises and responsive solutions. Higher Education, 56(2), 149-165.
      • Kanuka, H., Heller, B., & Jugdev, K. (2008). The factor structure of teaching development needs for distance delivered e-learning. International Journal for Academic Development, 13(2), 129-139.

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survey findings
Survey findings

1. Delivery methods

  • Digitally based teaching resources
  • Face-to-face workshops facilitated by experts

2. Teaching resources

  • Motivational strategies to engage learners
  • Deal with difficult students
  • Using different instructional

3. Instructional/course services

  • Teaching retreats, teaching portfolio, peer support

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survey findings1
Survey findings

4. Strategic planning

  • Early training for new hires
  • Funds for innovative teaching explorations
  • Support services for the scholarship of teaching/learning

5. Teaching beliefs

  • 91% consider their teaching practices to be important

6. Workplace satisfaction

  • Most have good working relationships with colleagues
  • Primary workplace is an effective working environment

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textual findings
Textual findings
  • Lack of familiarity with teaching resources available
  • Interested in:
    • Help with improving teaching practices
    • Forums to discuss best practices in teaching and research
      • Blended needs not just focused on teaching
    • Using technology more effectively
  • Debate over mandatory faculty development

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textual findings1
Textual findings
  • Mentoring program e.g., course design/delivery
  • Desire to improve teaching quality standards
  • Course development cycle concerns
  • Time constraint concerns related to attending faculty development sessions
    • Time off, incentives, subsidized workshops
  • Enhanced IT services to support teaching
    • Findings shared with CIO

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textual findings2
Textual findings
  • Sense of isolation
    • “Tele-commuting has failed as an experiment because it has virtually killed collegiality, intellectual cross-fertilization, and the social dimension of the workplace”
    • “It is hard to have collegial discussions without a mail or coffee room”
    • “Distance teaching for AU as a tutor or academic expert is a very isolating experience. We need many more opportunities for collegial interaction”

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textual findings3
Textual findings
  • Most academics
    • Care deeply about their teaching
    • Would like to participate in continuous learning opportunities
    • Want to be connected with like-minded colleagues
    • If left unattended will experience a sense of isolation
  • To overcome barriers:
    • Continuous learning activities should be delivered via digitally-based web spaces
    • But, the data also reveal:
      • Teleworkers would still like to attend F2F workshops

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issues to consider based on the survey and prior literature
Issues to consider based on the survey and prior literature
  • Teleworking can be an attractive opportunity for both the institution and employees
    • Flexibility in personal and family scheduling
    • Positive views about family and personal life
    • Under certain circumstances, teleworking enhances productivity and work quality

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However …
  • Teleworking has its tradeoffs:
    • Potentially vulnerable situations from the lack of contact between colleagues and the organization
    • Reduced identification/commitment to the organization
    • Reduced job satisfaction
    • Increased turnover intentions
    • Limits opportunities for promotion, organizational rewards
    • Limited access to employee development activities (interpersonal networking, informal learning, mentoring)

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  • A central unit which provides opportunities for improving teaching to foster teamwork can:
    • Reduce feelings of isolation
    • Increase institutional attachment
    • Increase job satisfaction
    • Increase work performance
    • Improve relationships between teleworkers and the institution
  • Annual orientations, regular informal faculty lunches supported by the VPA, regular faculty/staff mixers, open forums with the president, lunch with the vice president academic
    • All steps in the right direction

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