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A Case Study of Faculty Development Needs in Distance Education

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  1. 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 Associate Professor, Educational Policy Studies, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta, Canada heather.kanuka@ualberta.ca

  2. Presentation Outline • Trends in faculty development • Athabasca University TGIF study • Findings • Next steps ICDE Conference

  3. 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 ICDE Conference

  4. External Trends in Education • Increasing number of teaching centers • Increased use of technology and collaborative tools • Mediated learning practices ICDE Conference

  5. 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 ICDE Conference


  6. 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 ICDE Conference

  7. 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 ICDE Conference

  8. 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 ICDE Conference

  9. 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 ICDE Conference

  10. 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) ICDE Conference

  11. 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. ICDE Conference

  12. 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 ICDE Conference

  13. 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 ICDE Conference

  14. 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 ICDE Conference

  15. 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 ICDE Conference

  16. 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” ICDE Conference

  17. 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 ICDE Conference

  18. 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 ICDE Conference

  19. 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) ICDE Conference

  20. Conclusion • 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 ICDE Conference