Ready-to-Teach Online Courses: Understanding Faculty Roles and Attitudes

Ready-to-Teach Online Courses: Understanding Faculty Roles and Attitudes

Pamela K. Quinn (Dallas County Community College District, USA), Diane Mason (Lamar University, USA) and Kaye Shelton (Lamar University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0877-9.ch012


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to investigate the roles and attitudes of experienced full-time and part-time community college faculty members teaching online courses, pre-produced by a subject matter expert, an advisory committee, and a development team. Interviews conducted with five full-time and five part-time professors were analyzed for textual and structural descriptions to understand the essence of faculty attitudes and roles toward using a ready-to-teach master course with online students. Data revealed that faculty members associated personal teaching experience with the quality of the course and that instructors were not resistant to teaching with master courses, provided the courses afforded flexibility for modifications. In addition, faculty research participants were highly satisfied in present roles because the ready-to-teach courses worked well for instructors and students while meeting the faculty members' personal and professional needs.
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Faculty roles change when teaching online courses, including when the courses were team-developed (Christensen, Horn, & Johnson, 2008; King, 1993). As online learning evolves into using more common content or master courses, the role of faculty teaching those courses moves into less content development to more course facilitation. Courses such as these have been developed by a subject matter expert, an advisory committee, and a production team (National Center for Academic Transformation, 2014).

In addition, faculty duties have been unbundled from the traditional work of classroom instructors and from online courses developed solely by an individual faculty member (Twigg, 2003a, 2003b). In the unbundling of the faculty role, professors have not performed all the duties traditionally found in the regular classroom setting (Twigg, 2003b). In most of the online courses being offered today, faculty have still prepared the content and have handled the various roles of the classroom (Mendenhall, 2011). However, as online education continues to organize and respond to the scalability opportunities of the Internet delivery mode, more and more online content will be developed by outside providers including other educational development teams or publishers (Bonk, 2009; Kahn, 2014). Because of the range of expertise and experiences that can be brought to a group of developers, courses that are team-developed have enhanced the content and a variety of additional course materials (Shelton & Saltsman, 2005). In this type of scalable delivery mode, faculty were no longer individually responsible for the creation of content (Graves & Twigg, 2006). This has transformed the faculty member into more of a course facilitator responsible for communicating with students, building learning communities, and supporting student learning (Christensen et al., 2008).

In order for administrators to facilitate change and support faculty, it has become important to understand faculty attitudes toward this change (Bolliger & Wasilik, 2009; Bonk & Zhang, 2008). Learning what faculty members like or do not like about this new teaching role has helped administrators move programs forward as faculty and administrators create the new possibilities for the years to come (Fullan, 2007; Shelton & Saltsman, 2005). Christensen, Horn, Caldera, and Soares (2011) offered advice to administrators when they pointed out that change of this type will not be exempted from the natural rules of organizational change. Deep disagreements about how to accomplish change have been anticipated. Christensen et al. (2011) suggested administrators need to use the right tools and approaches to introduce change and acknowledged that “negotiation toward radical change simply will not work” (Christensen et al., 2008, p. 226.) Therefore, working with faculty, involving them in the conversation, and understanding their concerns are steps needed for change (Shelton, 2010; Shelton & Saltsman, 2005; Song, Wang & Liu, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Course Redesign: The process where a course is broken into various components allowing the faculty role to be changed from that of the traditional instructor. This unbundling process allows other technologies or lesser paid personnel to perform roles traditionally completed by classroom faculty ( Twigg, 2001 , 2003a , 2005 ).

Course Facilitator: The role in online teaching and learning that uses pre-produced content that focuses on student learning, not content development.

Pre-Produced Content: Many faculty are now using online content they did not develop themselves. Content can come from publishers, courseware developers, and team-developed courses other than the faculty member teaching the course. ( Blackmon & Major, 2012 ).

Master Course: A master course is ready-to-teach based on a form of learning with pre-produced course materials that are developed and implemented to achieve economies of scale ( Garrison, 1993 ).

Scalability: Making a course scalable referred to the process to increase course capacity and to allow more students to enroll in one section or to allow more than one faculty member to teach the same course in different sections ( Graves & Twigg, 2006 ). The overall intent in scaling higher education is to expand capacity and efficiency often using technology or less expensive personnel (Kahn, 2014 AU44: The in-text citation "Kahn, 2014" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ; NCAT, 2014 ).

Distance Education: The terms of distance education, online learning, and e-learning are used interchangeably. Distance education uses technology to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructors synchronously or asynchronously ( National Center for Education, 2014 ). Technologies used for instruction in this definition primarily use the Internet, mobile devices, and desktop computers.

Completion Agenda: Community colleges have developed recommended standards that focus on students completed courses and programs that include ways to create clear pathways to completion, improve student engagement, enhance campus services, and create support around measures and accountability ( AACC, 2014 ).

Traditional Teaching Role: Faculty generally have been in charge of interacting with a student to assist, promote, and complete a demonstration of student learning ( Wong & Wong, 2005 ). This included an active role in teaching the class itself, developing and revising lectures, revising content, preparing for lectures and labs, developing or finding class materials, grading materials, and accessing student learning ( Faculty Senate, 2005 ; Macfarlane, 2011 ).

Unbundled Faculty Role: The term “unbundled” comes from the telecommunications industry where services and equipment purchases can be separated into smaller segments in order to price things separately ( Crook, 2004 ). In the academic environment, the term unbundling refers to the segmenting of faculty duties so teachers can concentrate on academics and student learning ( Twigg, 2001 ). Other roles outside of instruction can be handled by technology and/or lower-qualified and lower-paid staff. When unbundling is done right, costs go down and student performance remains just as good as or better than in the traditional classroom setting ( Crook, 2004 ). In an unbundled course, faculty may be called mentors, facilitators, or coaches ( Mitchell, 2009 ).

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