Leveraging technology to provide development and support opportunities for adjunct faculty will ensure that part-time instructors feel connected to and supported by the institution, strengthening their commitment to the learners. Currently adjunct faculty are not required to participate in professional learning opportunities. Required institutional information is presumed to be shared by departmental leadership with these instructors who comprise more than two-thirds of the instructional workforce at Odessa College. However, often dissemination of information to adjunct faculty is overlooked. Leveraging technology such as Blackboard Learn, the learning management system (LMS) in use at Odessa College, professional learning opportunities for adjuncts can be developed and delivered to remote adjuncts. Web conferencing tools including Blackboard Collaborate and Skype can be employed to include the adjuncts in professional learning communities (PLCs), departmental and institutional meetings, and in developing mentoring relationships.
The purpose of implementing a network of support and development for adjunct faculty at Odessa College is ultimately to ensure that learners receive the same quality of instruction and support regardless of the employment status of the instructor. Through action research, feasibility and efficacy of implementing a mentoring and professional learning network toward improving success and retention rates of Odessa College students who are taught by adjunct faculty, through the use of existing technologies can be measured. By using Skype or Blackboard Collaborate, Adjunct faculty can participate in mentoring activities to ensure they feel supported. These technologies will also be used to include the adjuncts in Professional Learning Committees (PLCs), as well as departmental, and institutional meetings, to allow the adjuncts to have a voice in their department, and to be assured that they have access to all the information they need to be successful as instructors. Professional learning experiences will be developed for delivery through the Blackboard Learn learning management system (LMS).
Fundamental Research Question
By providing a network of support and development for adjunct faculty through leveraging technology improve the success and job satisfaction of the adjuncts, and ultimately improve learning experiences for the learners of the institution? Can providing support to adjunct faculty through mentoring and professional learning experiences through leveraging learning management system resources improve success and retention rates?
The research design will be quantitative and qualitative. Using data on student retention rates and student success rates for course sections led by adjunct faculty members, baseline data from 2018/2019 academic year will be used as a comparison against subsequent years. (Quantitative) Topical research, surveys of adjunct faculty, and interviews with adjunct faculty at Odessa College and other institutions will provide attitudes and satisfaction levels of adjunct faculty. (Qualitative)
Success rates (students earning a grade of C or better in the course) and retention rates (students who complete the course) for students in course sections led by adjunct faculty members will be collected each eight-week term and for each long semester. Additional data will be collected on professional learning and mentoring activities provided to adjunct faculty, including length of time spent in those activities. Feedback for professional learning activities, and weekly mentoring journals in the Learning Management System (LMS) will be collected to gauge adjunct faculty satisfaction and attitudes, and will be used for continuous improvement and in the development of professional learning experiences.
Student data (Success and Retention Rates) maintained in Colleague (Odessa College’s Student Information System, or SIS) will be compared to baseline data after each eight-week term and after each sixteen-week semester. Data on completion of professional learning experiences by adjunct faculty will be tracked through a professional development app. In addition to tracking the number of professional learning experiences the adjuncts have participated in, as well as the number of development hours, the app also offers a mechanism for faculty to provide feedback on professional learning experiences in which they participated, and to offer suggestions for professional learning experiences in which they would like to participate.Support for adjunct faculty will be measured through mentoring activities. Through the LMS, mentors and mentees will be required to complete a weekly journal for the first semester, and then intermittently throughout the academic year. These journals will be used by the Teaching and Learning team to gauge the support needs of the adjuncts. Also, survey data, and feedback on professional learning experiences will be collected and analysed to determine if a correlation between support/professional development for adjunct faculty and student success/retention exists. These data will be collected and assessed continuously, to ensure that the adjunct faculty are receiving the support and learning opportunities they need to grow and improve as educators.
As with the program itself, this timeline will be constantly shifting. Most activities will be continuous.
The planning process will be continuous and ongoing. Working collaboratively, the Vice President of Instruction, the Teaching and Learning Team, and the OC Global Team will gather and analyse data from surveys and feedback regularly.
August 1, 2019: Teaching and Learning Team and OC Global Team will plan and launch a survey to identify professional learning needs of adjunct faculty, and to gauge job satisfaction. Weekly Meetings between OC Global and Teaching and Learning will provide opportunities for continued planning.
Fall Semestre, 2019: Beginning in August 2019, the Network of Support and Development for Adjunct Faculty will be launched.
Mentors identified and paired with adjunct faculty.
August 1, 2019: course shell in the Blackboard LMS will be developed as a “one-stop shop” for adjunct faculty.
Initial training courses will be launched, including:
New Faculty Orientation – welcome information, and overview of instruction at Odessa College (9 hours)
Blackboard Academy – Technical information and tutorials for the LMS (3 hours)
Quality Course Components (QC2) – overview and guidance on quality and standards for online courses at Odessa College (3 hours)
Every Eight Weeks/Sixteen Weeks: Data on student retention and success will be gathered.
Fall Semestre, 2019: Beginning in September 2019, Teaching and Learning Team will develop a mechanism for observing online courses and instructional practices of Adjunct Faculty.
Ongoing: Professional learning experiences will be developed by Teaching and Learning Team for instructional and pedagogical support, and OC Global Team for educational technology support.
Weekly Meetings between OC Global and Teaching and Learning will provide opportunities for continued improvement, development of learning experiences, and other opportunities for adjuncts.
Fall Semestre, 2019: Reflection on professional learning experiences, mentoring experiences, and the Odessa College experience will be conducted weekly during semestre 1, and will continue intermittently in subsequent semestres.
Weekly Meetings between OC Global and Teaching and Learning will provide opportunities for reflection and continuous improvement.
How the Literature Review Informed The Process
The review of literature focused on existing research and practices for supporting adjunct faculty at the college level, and has provided an overview of existing programs of support and development for adjunct faculty at other institutions. With focus on reaching adjunct faculty who work remotely, the literature review focused on the efficacy of providing support and professional learning experiences using the LMS and other technologies. The research corroborated my theory, that part-time faculty want to feel supported and included, and they want to have opportunities for professional learning. The research also suggested that providing this level of support and development for this population would lead to increased satisfaction in their jobs.
Because the demand for online learning opportunities in higher education continues to grow, and because the use of adjunct faculty also continues to increase, research on this topic will be constantly evolving. To ensure that best practices and research based opportunities for adjuncts are employed, action research will be ongoing.
To learn more about the Action Research Process, check out the Literature Review, or the Action Research Outline by clicking these links.
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Mertler, C. (2017). Action research: Improving schools and empowering educators (Fifth ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Pexels. (N.D.). Analysis [Photo]. Retrieved from Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/users/Pexels-2286921/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&ut_campaign=image&utm_content=1841158)
StartupStockPhotos. (N.D.). Student [Photo]. Retrieved from Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/users/StartupStockPhotos-690514/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=849825)
Action Research Plan (MS Word Doc)