Harnessing the Leadership Potential of Online Adjunct Faculty

USDLA 2014 session by Jennifer Varney and Amie Ader-Beeler from Southern New Hampshire University

At Southern New Hampshire University, they have a standardized curriculum, where the online faculty are teaching. They have 8 week courses for undergraduate, and 11 week courses for graduate. They have about 600 adjuncts, and 30% of them in any semester are on their first time teaching the course.

The challenges they were trying to address are similar to many of us:

  • Providing a consistency of experience
  • Consistency of grading
  • Having key performance indicators
  • Measuring faculty performance
  • The bandwidth of administration, i.e. scaling measuring, monitoring and coaching

They started with organizational goals and recommend we do the same: what is important to measure? What are we promising to students? What is important to our university?

From that, you can get key behaviors – things that the faculty have control on. This is what you want to focus on.

They use Blackboard – and some main areas they are concerned about are:

  • The welcome to the student. The orientation, the personality of the class. The instructor paints the classroom space in the students’ head. Nice visual!
  • Discussion & dialogue between faculty and students.
  • Announcement area – where the faculty give real-world connections for the content
  • Grade center / gradebook / feedback

Need to define the areas in the course that the faculty should be working.

From defining the key behaviors, you can move to creating expections for those key behaviors.

For example, in discussion, they should bring in their own ideas, they should recognize student strengths. In feedback, they need to work on timeliness.

They gave their good instructors an opportunity to be a lead instructor. They get access to their assigned 25 instructor’s courses, they they interact, coach, and support them. The team leads are organized by discipline. This makes them feel more invested in the institution, and makes all the adjuncts feel more connected to the institution.

In the team space, they are sharing best practices, providing ongoing faculty training, discipline specific coaching, and recognizing successes.

This was an amazing session full of concepts and suggestions that we can use to improve our online faculty support.

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