Faculty Participation in Online Higher Education: What Factors Motivate or Inhibit Their Participation?

Faculty Participation in Online Higher Education: What Factors Motivate or Inhibit Their Participation?

Michael S. Hoffman (St. Bonaventure University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5472-1.ch058
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In the past decade, enrollments in distance education, and specifically online education, have grown dramatically in the United States. According to the 2009 Sloan Report (), enrollments in online courses increased from 9.6% of total postsecondary enrollments in 2002 to 25.3% in 2009. Unfortunately, a number of barriers exist that may result in an inability of higher education institutions to provide quality online education programming in sufficient scale to meet the expected student demand. The Managing Online Education report () identifies the resistance of faculty towards teaching in an online environment as foremost among ten factors that “impede institutional efforts to expand online education programs” (p. 1). An understanding of the factors that both motivate and discourage faculty member participation in online education programs is critical if institutions are to leverage their existing faculty to meet the current and future demand for online education. This case study first presents a number of motivating and inhibiting factors and then discusses how St. Bonaventure University leveraged these factors in an attempt to boost faculty participation in online education.
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Definition Of Terms

While there is little expressly technical language used in this case study, it is important that several important terms be defined.

  • 1.

    Online education refers to education delivered via the Internet. Fully online instruction is defined as “a course where most or all of the content is delivered online” with “typically no face-to-face” meeting (Allen & Seaman, 2011, p. 7).

  • 2.

    Asynchronous online education refers to online education conducted in a manner whereby students and instructors interact at different times (Olson & Hale, 2007). Asynchronous online education is often facilitated by the use of a learning management system and incorporates technologies such as discussion boards, online assignments, and multi-media content delivery.

  • 3.

    Synchronous online education refers to online education conducted in a manner whereby students and instructors interact at the same time (Olson & Hale, 2007). Synchronous online education is often delivered by means of real-time, web-based collaboration software such as Adobe Connect or WebEx.

  • 4.

    A learning management system is a web-based computer system that enables online instruction through facilitation of such activities as online discussions, assignments, and content delivery. Both Blackboard and Moodle are examples of commonly used learning management systems.


Setting The Stage

The Importance of Online Learning to Higher Education

Higher education institutions often seek to implement online education initiatives as a means to increase student enrollments (Schiffman, Vignare, & Geith, 2007). Higher education online enrollments continue to surge in the United States, as evidenced by the finding from the most recent Sloan Consortium report (Allen & Seaman, 2011) indicating that the number of students taking at least one online course grew by an annualized rate of 18.3 percent between fall 2002 and fall 2010. This is compared to an approximate two percent annualized growth rate for enrollments in all of higher education during the same time period (Allen & Seaman, 2011). This promise of increased enrollments has elevated online education to a position of great strategic importance for higher education institutions. Indeed, 65.5% of chief academic officers at higher education institutions reported that online education is “critical to the long-term strategy of my institution” (Allen & Seaman, 2011, p. 7). Research (Chau, 2010; Hoskins, 2011; McCord, 2007; Moloney & Oakley, 2010) supports the argument that online education has become a critical component of the higher education system.

Online education has been recognized as an important strategic concern at St. Bonaventure University. The reasons for this importance are threefold. First, St. Bonaventure is hoping the flexibility of asynchronous online education allows for the recruitment of more non-traditional students who, due to a variety of commitments, would otherwise be unable to attend college courses. Second, the geographic flexibility afforded to students is particularly attractive given St. Bonaventure’s rural location. Finally, online education will allow St. Bonaventure to enroll additional students without having to make many improvements or additions to its existing physical plant.

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