Lessons From the Field: Engaging Remote Faculty

Lessons From the Field: Engaging Remote Faculty

Ted Cross (Western Governors University, USA), Gina Delgado (Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University, USA), Laura Polk (Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University, USA) and Michelle Love (Western Governors University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6758-6.ch009
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Abstract

Online education has opened new spaces for faculty development and collaboration. On paper, remote faculty are part of their department's community. Physically, however, they are often removed from course development, faculty governance, obtaining professional growth opportunities, and developing professional relationships. Digital teaching models shift the overall faculty culture. However, there are small and simple interventions that can be implemented to help connect remote faculty to students, other faculty members, and their academic departments. Using intergroup contact theory and ideas from the community of practice theory, the cases highlighted show methods of engaging faculty. The cases also explore simple, yet practical, interventions such as virtual and face-to-face faculty meetings as well as “the micro interview,” which aims to help connect remote faculty to their departments.
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Education At Scale

Technology, faculty hierarchy, and college leadership intersect in new ways as online education grows. Institutions develop programs that expand access to education and utilize technology as the core medium of education dissemination as they pivot to meet the needs of their ever-growing online population and hire remote faculty to facilitate their programs. Although overall enrollment in online education dropped by almost half a percent, “the number of students who took at least some of their courses online grew by more than 350,000, a healthy 5.7 percent” from Fall 2016 to Fall 2017 (Lederman, 2018, para. 1). Remote faculty members often enter classes with high enrollment and a diverse population which may or may not be accustomed to online learning. These faculty members must adapt to their virtual classrooms and rely upon university departments for assistance throughout the semester. This can help ensure that the online learning environment supports students’ access regardless of their familiarity with online learning. College leadership must develop methods to keep remote faculty engaged with their department’s goals and the university’s vision.

Many populations have not had access to online education in prior decades. BestColleges (2019) explains that online learners are “becoming increasingly diverse; location and age are more varied, and universities report an increase in students with disabilities, learners with English as a second language, underrepresented minorities, and economically disadvantaged students” (p. 8). Online education can be more affordable and can reach students who do not have access to traditional face-to-face programs. Remote faculty have the responsibility to represent their department and university and to navigate an evolving student population with increased diversity.

Serving students through remote faculty is a paramount responsibility of the academic departments and their leadership. Departments must provide systematic support for remote faculty through technology and professional growth as enrollment and diversity increase. Universities such as Western Governors University (WGU) and Arizona State University (ASU) have two of the largest online student populations—combined they have over 140,000 online students enrolled. This chapter explores both WGU and ASU as examples of universities with different approaches to supporting and engaging remote faculty to best serve their students.

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