The Adjunct’s Role in Delivering Quality Online Instruction

The Adjunct’s Role in Delivering Quality Online Instruction

Laurie Bedford (Professional Development Consultant and Adjunct Faculty, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-599-5.ch004
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Efforts to promote the distinctiveness of online programs in an increasingly competitive market have led to a focus on instructor expertise and instructional quality. The part-time instructor, who is most often charged with facilitating online courses, is commonly viewed as a liability to the integrity of the instructional process. However, little is known about the true nature of the motivations or competencies of this group of instructors. Most often, they are perceived as a homogeneous group with similar motivations and levels of expertise. This case challenges this notion by focusing on a single instructor categorized as a full-time, professional adjunct and is characterized by her colleagues as highly skilled. The case participant describes challenges and best practices that support her in providing quality instruction. These best practices subsequently are discussed as strategies to inform decisions upon which marketing efforts are dependent.
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Setting The Stage

In the early stages of the growth of online education, the programs themselves could be marketed as unique because of their convenience and flexibility (Garrett, 2008). However, as online education has proliferated, it has become clear that these arguments alone will not continue to be sufficient evidence of a distinctive program that will offer unique opportunities. Nor do they address issues of the quality of instruction executed by adjunct instructors. Organizational leaders need to recognize that their marketing efforts must be adjusted for a new and savvier audience. This audience is not bound by time or place but represents a growing number of individuals for whom choice is unlimited. In addition, this audience is characterized by a trend in which adult learners expect an education with broad and personal meaning attached (Forest & Peterson, 2006). For these adult learners, quality programs are a distinguishing factor in their decision about which online program will best meet their academic needs (Gibbons & Wentworth, 2002).

The proliferation of online education has led to a better understanding of best practices (Kupczynski & Hooper, 2006). Consequently, online programs have become more standardized as developers strive to align their practices with those identified as most promising. This means that courses across institutions have similar content and structure. As a result, organizations that enjoyed a market niche in the early days are finding it more difficult to differentiate themselves among their competitors (Allen & Seaman, 2008). As in traditional education, when program offerings and course content can no longer be the distinctive factor, organizations must look to broader aspects of their programs that make them stand out as high quality among many. Efforts to differentiate programs in an increasingly competitive market have led to a focus on a wide assortment of instructional features. According to Garrett (2008), these include institutional type, programs of study, levels of study and cost. However, as more programs become available, the range and scope become increasingly similar. Potential students are faced with larger numbers of schools and programs for which there seems to be no clear differentiating factor.

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