Institutional support for online course design and delivery: Faculty professional development incentives and programs
Herman, Jennifer H.
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Online education is no longer a peripheral phenomenon in higher education: over one-third of faculty have taught or developed an online course. As institutions of higher education expand their online education offerings, administrators need to recognize that supporting faculty through the use of incentives and through effective faculty development programs for online instruction is important to the improvement of the quality of educational programs. This quantitative study used an online survey to investigate the types and frequency of incentives and faculty development programs for online instruction at institutions with an established teaching and learning development unit (TLDU), as well as the relationship between these incentives and programs and the number of TLDU staff, the current percentage of online courses, and current and planned growth in online education. About half of the responding institutions offered incentives for designing an online course; financial and tenure and promotion incentives were the most common. Incentives were offered less frequently for teaching an online course and more frequently for longer faculty development programs. The average TLDU offered about fifteen different types of faculty development programs, the most common being websites, technical services, printed materials, and consultation with instructional design experts. The study found that an institution's financial support for course downloads and technology incentives for designing an online course and participating in professional development was positively correlated with the number of FTE TLDU staff; there was an inverse relationship with the prevalence of formal peer mentoring programs. However, the strongest relationships were with the increase in current percentage of online courses offered by the institution and the corresponding increases in the frequency, variety, and extent of resources used to offer incentives and faculty development programs for online instruction. Current and planned growth had a much weaker relationship. Results were analyzed using L. Dee Fink's multidimensional model of institutional effectiveness.