Ensuring Quality: The Faculty Role in Online Higher Education

Ensuring Quality: The Faculty Role in Online Higher Education

Arthur Richardson Smith (Southwestern College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0877-9.ch011
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Abstract

A varied set of major stakeholders in higher education results in diverse perspectives on what entails quality in online higher education. Learners, employers, accreditation agencies, funding and regulatory authorities, and higher education institutions exist for different purposes. Yet, all have a common interest in the success of the learners' education. Examining the faculty role in ensuring quality in online higher education, developing a working definition of that role, and identifying considerations for faculty practice that are essential to achieving that end is the purpose of this chapter. The chapter conveys and explains the results of a thematic analysis of the requirements and expectations of the major stakeholders, their contribution toward the formulation of the working definition of the faculty role, their contribution toward the identification of significant considerations for faculty in exercising their role, and makes recommendations for further investigation.
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Background

Assessing the role of faculty in ensuring quality in online higher education necessitates stepping back to identify the expected characteristics of higher education quality of which faculty are a part. There are significant policy, standards, professional, quality assessment, and research-based resources that contribute toward their identification from diverse stakeholder perspectives. The primary stakeholders are learners, employers, accreditation agencies, funding and regulatory authorities, and higher education institutions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Connectivism: Connectivism is a learning theory that recognizes the evolution of ever-changing learning networks, their complexity, and the role that technology plays in learning networks through facilitation of existing learning networks and creation of new learning networks. Connectivism relies, in part, on a construct that is inclusive of chaos and network theories ( Siemens, 2004 ).

Heutagogy: Heutagogy is a learning theory that is an extension of andragogy. Heutagogy assumes self-directed learning on the part of the adult learner. The adult learner determines learning goals, resources required, means for learning, and evaluation of learning outcomes ( Hase & Kenyon, 2001 ).

Andragogy: Andragogy is a learning theory that is inclusive of formative and summative approaches to adult learning. An andragogic approach includes facilitation, collaboration, knowledge and experience exchange, and problem solving, among other attributes ( Hase & Kenyon, 2001 ).

Assessment and Feedback: Assessment is an evaluative process to determine attainment of goals and objectives. Accreditation agencies, such as the HLC, expect assessment to be used to both evaluate institutions, programs, and courses as well as for their respective continuous quality improvement (HLC, 2015 AU114: The in-text citation "HLC, 2015" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). Faculty use assessment as an evaluative process to determine learner attainment of assignment objectives. Feedback complements assessment and may be considered a part of assessment or assessment a part of feedback. The differentiator, however, is that feedback also includes an element of coaching or guidance (e.g. what was done well and where improvements need to be made).

Learning Outcomes and Professional Competencies: Learning outcomes refer to the attainment of broad knowledge and specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the field of study; and the ability to integrate and responsibly apply them in the field ( New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability, 2012 ). Professional competencies are similar in nature and may be the same as learning outcomes, but from the perspective of current and prospective employers and other professional entities.

Accreditation Agencies: Accreditation agencies are private organizations charged with establishing criteria and conduct evaluations to ensure that applicant and existing accredited entities have meet the criteria. In higher education, the organizations are regional or national in nature and use a peer review process for institutional or program evaluation and determination of accreditation status (U.S. Department of Education, n.d.).

Engagement: Engagement relates to the involvement in academic activities and interaction with others in the learning environment ( New Leadership Alliance for Student Learning and Accountability, 2012 ). Engagement refers to both learner and faculty interaction and activity involvement.

Pedagogy: Pedagogy is a formative learning theory that is primarily focused on the teaching of children. A pedagogical approach is a directed learning approach ( Hase & Kenyon, 2001 ).

Persistence to Degree: The completion of a post-secondary program culminating with a post-secondary degree or other credential (NCES, n.d. AU115: The in-text citation "NCES, n.d." is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

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