Faculty Attitudes to Online Learning!

Dear Commons Community,

A colleague of mine, Jeff Seaman, at the Sloan Consortium recently completed a study entitled:

Online Learning as a Strategic Asset.  Volume II:  The Paradox of Faculty Voices:  Views and Experiences with Online Learning.   It is available as a free download at:  http://www.sloan-c.org/APLU_Reports

There are a number of interesting findings regarding faculty attitudes to the quality of online courses, motivation to teach online, and student access to an education.  Two areas that were particularly interesting to me were:  one, the popular thesis of digital immigrant v. digital native that posits that older faculty are reluctant to change their teaching approaches, especially with regard to technology and online learning, was not supported.  This study found that the most experienced faculty (those with more than 20 years of teaching experience) are teaching online at rates equivalent to those with less teaching experience.   This finding indicates that age has had little to do with determining who will develop and teach online.

Two, the time and effort required to teach and develop online courses was also an important issue among faculty in this study.  Nearly 64 percent of faculty said it takes “somewhat more” or “a lot more” effort to teach online compared to a face-to-face course. The results for online course development are even more striking: Over 85 percent of the faculty with online course development experience said it takes “somewhat more” or “a lot more” effort.    This is an important implication for faculty who work in institutions where scholarship is viewed more importantly for career advancement (e.g., promotion, tenure) than teaching.  Faculty in disciplines and academic departments that put a priority on research and grantsmanship would be careful about spending additional time on teaching that could better be spent on scholarly activities.

Anyhow this study has several other very interesting findings and I would encourage anyone interested in understanding more about faculty engagement with online learning to give it a read.  One caution is that the sample of colleges surveyed is skewed to southern institutions.


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