Recruiting, Orienting, & Supporting Online Adjunct Faculty

A Survey of Practices

A joint project of WCET and The Learning House, Inc.

Andrew J. Magda, Russell Poulin, Dr. David L. Clinefelter

In the summer of 2015, The Learning House, Inc. and WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) conducted a survey of more than 200 deans, directors and provosts at two- and four-year higher education institutions who were familiar with the online learning practices at their respective institutions. The goal of the survey was to gather information around the hiring, expectations, policies and support of adjunct and part-time faculty members for online courses. We used the Babson Research Group (2015) definition for online learning, in which 80% or more of the course had to be delivered online. Following the survey, in-depth follow-up interviews were conducted with eight participants from the survey. Where possible, we sought to identify successful practices from which others might learn.

Key findings include:

  • One-size-fits-all policies are common. Policies that were designed for on-campus adjuncts were frequently applied to those who teach online, which can present challenges in the different modality.
  • Adjuncts teaching online are often given responsibility and flexibility. Thirty-one percent of online adjunct faculty are often given responsibility for course design, and 21 percent of institutions allow online adjunct faculty the ability to totally customize the courses they teach.
  • There are two approaches to how institutions have adjunct faculty develop online courses. Colleges and universities tend to fall into two camps, either using a “master course” philosophy (the institution develops the course) or “full development/customization” (the faculty member develops the course.
  • Professional training and development are not guaranteed. Eighty-four percent of respondents reported high levels of technical and instructional design support, but most professional development and training requirements were offered face-to-face or on campus.
  • Recruiting is the same for online and on-campus adjuncts. Online adjuncts are hired using the same advertising and screening methods used to hire on-campus adjuncts.

Read the full report.

Participate in a free webcast to discuss the results on December 3 at 2:00 Eastern time.