Just point, click, and teach, right? Influences on faculty and administrator discourse and behavior about online programs
As distance learning continues to grow throughout American higher education, faculty and administrators must collaborate to implement online programs. Higher education literature suggests that administrators and faculty hold different values, beliefs and practices, differences that may constrain communication when they launch an online program.
Grounded in the literature of organizational/academic culture, strategic change, and cultural discourse analysis, this study examines factors that influence what faculty and administrators say and do about online education. Identifying these factors helps scholars and practitioners to better understand and improve on collaborative communication. Special attention was given to contextual differences, including institutional type, size and control; academic discipline; and faculty rank, status and career stage.
The qualitative multi-case research design captured the “thick description” necessary to study this phenomenon in a variety of institutional contexts with online programs. The case studies included data from semi-structured interviews, observations, and analysis of documents, artifacts and archival records.
The findings suggest that (1) the extent to which individuals perceive alignment between their personal and professional narrative and the goals of an online program shapes subsequent implementation; (2) online education is more attractive to adjunct and tenured faculty members than to junior faculty members; (3) membership in a faculty vs. administrative cultural group contributes to observable differences between what members of each group say and do about online programs; (4) whether an online program is a faculty-led or an administrator-led initiative, the amount of collaboration between the groups impacts the pace, pitfalls and successes that participants experience; (5) characteristics of soft-applied disciplines are conducive to the online delivery format; (6) faculty members perceive administrative support for online programs as a motivational force and as an expression of institutional priority; and (7) leaders of the associate college and the university institutional types encourage online program growth more than their counterparts at the baccalaureate college included this study.
This study concludes with implications for scholars and practitioners of online education; advice for administrative and faculty leaders, instructional designers and faculty members; and an initial framework for understanding factors that influence what faculty and administrators say and do about online programs.
0745: Higher education