Adjunct Faculty Members’ Perceptions of Online Education Compared to Traditional Education

Adjunct Faculty Members’ Perceptions of Online Education Compared to Traditional Education

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I am often asked to give my opinion regarding online education versus traditional education.  Because it is such a popular topic, I decided to conduct some research to determine how online instructors’ perceive online versus traditional degrees. The following is an abstract from my most recent study published in the Journal for Online Doctoral Education.

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What to Expect in Online Doctorate Degree Courses

As a doctoral chair, it is my responsibility to help guide students through their doctoral dissertation process.  In order to receive a doctorate through online courses, there is a series of courses that students take prior to the time they begin writing the proposal for their dissertation.  Each online program varies to some degree.  Based on the two programs I have either taken or taught, I can say that they were pretty similar.  The following is what students might expect from an online doctoral program.

Students must first complete a series of online courses that address their field of study. For example, I received a degree that is titled: Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration with a Specialization in Management.  That means that those initial courses included a specific focus on business management.  Some students may combine their Master’s with their Doctorate.  Assuming that students have already taken the thirty or so credits required for a Master’s degree, there may be another 10 or 15 courses required in the field of specialization. In this case, it would be to study business management.  These courses are not that different from taking graduate-level classes.

After finishing those courses, students begin taking courses that are more specific to the proposal and final dissertation.  It is difficult to state how many courses may be required at this point. Some students require fewer courses than others based on how much work they complete within the scheduled time for each course.  I have had some students make it through the dissertation in the process by taking only three dissertation courses.  Others may take a dozen or more courses to finish.  It depends upon how much students have done on their own prior to beginning the doctoral courses, how quickly they work, and the type of research they do.

The steps in the doctoral process include writing the proposal (which describes how the study will be performed, aka chapters 1-3 of the final dissertation), obtaining proposal approval, doing the research, writing the final dissertation (updating Chapters 1-3 and writing Chapters 4-5), obtaining approval for the dissertation, defending the dissertation in an oral presentation, and finally having the doctoral chair, doctoral committee, and dean give a final seal of approval.

The hardest part generally seems to be writing the proposal or the first three chapters.  This is difficult because students have to learn how to write in a very specific and scholarly way.  There are templates that may provide helpful information regarding alignment, content requirements, and formatting.   Students work very closely with their chair during this time.  Students must also have at least two committee members.  Some schools, like the one I attended, required an additional outside member to review the dissertation.  All members of the committee must have a doctorate.

Students usually work strictly with the chair until Chapters 1-3 are ready to submit. At that point, the committee looks at the work to give input and make suggestions.  After all adjustments are made, the proposal goes through several stages of approval.  Students may need to submit more than once if there are changes requested. This is commonly the case.  Once the proposal is approved, students can perform the study, and eventually write the last two chapters that describe the results.  This final document goes through the chair and committee approval process again, and eventually must meet with the dean’s approval.  The last step is for students to defend the dissertation in an oral presentation.  Usually that is the easiest part of the process because students know their study inside and out by that time.  It takes some students just a few years to go through the process.  Others take much longer. Some never finish.  It is a very difficult process.  However, in the end, it is worth it.

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Adjunct Advantages: The Future of Education

 

Professors who work on a contracted, part-time basis are referred to as adjuncts.  There are advantages for universities that hire adjuncts rather than tenured faculty. However, many adjunct professors do not like this option.  Some refer to the way things have changed in the university system as adjunct purgatory, with low pay, few benefits and no security.

There is no shortage of articles that point out the problems with adjuncts.  In an article from MindingTheCampus, author Mark Bauerlein stated, “The practice creates a two-tier system, with tenured and tenure-track folks on one, adjuncts on the other.  Adjuncts take up most of the undergraduate teaching, enabling the others to conduct their research and handle upper-division and graduate courses, thus maintaining a grating hierarchy that damages group morale.  Also, because of their tenuous status, adjuncts can’t give students the attention they deserve and they can’t apply the rigor they should.”

These problems are more often associated with traditional campuses.  However, the future of education is headed toward more online learning.  In fact, according to Campustechnology.com, “Nearly 12 million post-secondary students in the United States take some or all of their classes online right now. But this will skyrocket to more than 22 million in the next five years.”  In private online institutions, adjunct positions can actually be more lucrative due to the ability that faculty may teach multiple classes for multiple universities.

 

The reason there are so many negative articles about adjuncts is that in the traditional setting, they have a completely different set of issues than those in the online setting.  There are many positives that should be noted for adjuncts in online learning. Some of the positives from the universities’ perspective (online or traditional) include: Not having to offer tenure, having flexibility in course offerings and paying less money per course.

There are even more advantages for online adjuncts from the faculty’s perspective:

  • Ability to work at multiple universities
  • No driving to campuses
  • Less meetings to attend
  • No need to publish research
  • Ability to work any time of the day in asynchronous courses
  • Ability to have other jobs at the same time
  • Ability to travel and still teach without taking time off
  • Option to have some of the same benefits with some universities offering 401k, insurance and reduced tuition costs for the adjunct and their family

For those considering an adjunct online position, a site like higheredjobsis a great place to find teaching opportunities. For more information about adjunct salaries, check out SalaryBlog.org.

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College Students Beware of Financial Aid Scams

In the recent article 15 Common Financial Aid Scams to Watch Out For, the author points out that college students may be a vulnerable demographic.  So-called financial aid experts may be out to take advantage of those looking for legitimate ways to finance their education.  Watch out for some of the following wording:  Unclaimed Money, Buy Now, Application Fees, Free Seminar, and Guaranteed.  For the complete list of scams with explanations, click here

Finaid.org claims, “Every year, several hundred thousand students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams. The victims of these scams lose more than $100 million annually.”  There is some protection against fraud.  The Scholarship Fraud Protection Act of 2000 has increased the penalties for this fraud, including a maximum fine of $500,000 and jail time. 

If you feel you have been scammed, you have recourse.  According to the Finaid.org site, “The following organizations can help you determine whether an offer is legitimate. They will tell you whether they have received any complaints about the company, or whether it’s currently under investigation. They can also provide you with additional information or assistance.

National Fraud Information Center (NFIC)
In addition to providing helpful information, the NFIC will pass your complaints along to the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state’s Attorney General’s Office. The NFIC also maintains a toll-free hotline at 1-800-876-7060.”

Where Your College Tuition is Spent

 

Many people are going back to school to further their education in the hope of being more marketable in the workplace. As tuition increases, students may be wondering where their money is being used.

Onlinecolleges.net reported 10 Telling Stats on Where Your Tuition Money Goes. It is interesting to note that the professor’s pay is not a big factor in these increases. It may be surprising how much goes to construction and renovations. Also of note is how much is being spent on entertainment. “Travel and entertainment are major expenses for universities. For example, Kansas State University spent $9 million in travel and entertainment related expenses in 2010.” For the complete list explaining where your funds are being spent, click here.

Wall Street Journal Partners with Unigo to Create a Site that Offers Potential College Students Some Sound Advice

 

The Wall Street Journal has teamed up with Unigo’s student correspondents from more than 2000 colleges across America to produce a site they call WSJ on Campus.  If you are not familiar with Unigo, you can watch a video that explains what they do by clicking here.  Their system helps student match their interests and values with appropriate universities.  Their offer help to prospective students by providing reviews written by past students regarding the schools they have attended.  This information is used to help prospective students decide which school is best for them.

If you to go to WSJ On Campus, you will find that they offer the following information about getting prepared for college:

  • What matters when choosing a school
  • What it will really be like when you get to college
  • The perfect school for you
  • Are Ivy schools are really worth it
  • How to master the admissions essay
  • How to deal with school’s turning your requests for admission down
  • How to prepare for the SAT
  • What to do if you can’t go to your first choice school

They also offer the following information about what to expect once you get there:

  • How to choose the right classes
  • How to choose the right major
  • Who earns the most money
  • How to handle doing the assignments
  • Understanding academics
  • How to succeed in your Freshman year
  • How to get an A on your papers
  • How to use textbooks on your iPhone

 

I tried searching by online, online colleges, distance learning and other terms but found no information about online education on the site.  I even typed in some of the top online universities to see if they would come up and there was nothing.  It appears this site is very helpful if you are considering going to a traditional college but not so helpful if you want to use it to choose an online university.  Even if you do decide to attend an online college or university, you can learn a lot from their articles about how to be a successful student.

For more information about being a successful online student, click here.

Website Helps Teens Prepare For College

 

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I am always interested in any technology that helps young adults prepare for college and beyond.  Arizona has a new website that is aimed at helping high school grads pursue a college degree. Check out this article by Eugene Scott at the Arizona Republic:

A new online portal to help high-school students prepare for college is part of a public-private education initiative aimed at boosting the number of Arizonans with a college degree.

The High School Portal, which is found at AZTransfer.com, streamlines information from all public universities and community colleges into a central source.

The portal is touted as a key tool to help students transition into college. It outlines steps that teens must take to attend college, begin earning college credit and figure out what careers may be best suited for them.

To read the full article, click here:  azcentral.com

Choosing a College Minor or Co-Major: What Degrees Pay the Most and the Least

When I received my BS in Business Management from Arizona State University in the 80s, choosing a minor was a common thing.  I chose Personnel Management at the time, because I was very interested in the human relations side of management.  It seems you don’t hear as much about students picking a minor lately.

Today, the Arizona Republic ran an article about students choosing to have a minor more often when obtaining their degree.  According to the article, “A small but growing number of Arizona college students are graduating with academic minors, hoping that concentrating in another field of study will broaden their knowledge, help them land a job or get into graduate school. This year, 13 percent of undergraduates at Arizona State University earned a minor, up from 10 percent just two years ago. The state’s largest public university is offering 92 minors in a range of different subjects compared with 67 a decade ago.”   

Keep in mind, that although the student obtains the minor, it will not be reflected on their diploma.  It will, however, be notated in their college records.  It’s important to note that not all schools even offer minors.  Yale, is a prime example of a university that does not. On the other hand, some schools actually require a minor.  Northern Arizona University (NAU) is one that has this requirement.

Another trend I’ve seen for a lot of the newer generations to go the co-major route.  ASU has a program where students can have a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies or BIS degree. According to ASU’s site, “The Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) degree program is one of the highest-quality and best-recognized interdisciplinary studies degree programs in the country. It offers students the freedom to select two concentration areas from a rich menu of more than one hundred possibilities, and it enables students to integrate those areas into a degree with interdisciplinary breadth, intellectual cohesion, and practical value. The core curriculum of the BIS program provides students the intellectual tools needed to integrate their concentration areas, engage in interdisciplinary problem solving, and prepare for careers and graduate programs that increasingly cross academic disciplines.”

There are advantages to picking the minor or double-major route:

  1. You gain different perspectives and don’t have such a single focus.
  2. It may be helpful in gaining entrance to graduate school.
  3. Having two areas of specialization can be advantageous for specific jobs.
  4. Some employers think the minor is as important, if not more important than the major.  See this article from fastweb.com.  http://www.fastweb.com/college-search/articles/46-does-your-minor-matter
  5. If you and a competing job applicant have all of the same things going for you but you have the extra minor, that could be enough to push ahead in the race.
  6. Having a minor can send a message that you have a strong interest in a specific area.
  7. Having a double-major can allow you to study more than one field in depth.
  8. Having a double-major may open up more job possibilities for you.
  9. Having a double-major means you may not have taken as many elective courses to obtain your degree, which also shows dedication. 
  10. Having a double-major may be useful in a job that requires a broad range of knowledge.

For more information about advantages and disadvantages of a double-major, click here.

Are you still trying to decide on a major?  If salary is a concern, you might want to consider the following:

Top 10 College Degrees by Starting Salary from Darwinsfinance.com

1.         Petroleum Engineering $86,220

2.         Chemical Engineering $65,142

3.         Mining & Mineral Engineering $64,552

4.         Computer Science $61,205

5.         Computer Engineering $60,879

6.         Electrical/Electronics & Communications Engineering $59,074

7.         Mechanical Engineering $58,392

8.         Industrial/Manufacturing Engineering $57,734

9.         Aerospace/Aeronautical/ Astronautical Engineering $57,231

10.       Information Sciences & Systems $54,038

Bottom 10 College Degrees by Salary Start from Walletpop

1.          Social Work  $33,400

2.          Elementary Education $33,000

3.          Theology $34,800

4.          Music $34,000

5.          Spanish $35,600

6.          Horticulture $37,200

7.          Education $36,200

8.          Hospitality and Tourism $37,000

9.          Fine Arts $35,800

10.        Drama $35,600

Think of Technology When Managing Class Assignments | CollegeSurfing Insider

was with a group of college students this week recently who brought their planners with them to schedule events throughout the semester. I was surprised at how most of the dozen students brought paper calendars and planners, instead of plugging the dates into calendars on their phones or computers.

I understand the reluctance to put all assignments in a calendar or file on the computer or to use the calendar and to-do apps on an iPhone or Blackberry. There’s always the concern, especially with students who aren’t that tech-savvy, that something could happen with the phone or computer and all of that crucial information for a college student seeking to ace a class would be lost. Talk about a stressful situation.

Maybe it’s easier to contemplate going virtual with assignments and calendars when you’re taking an online class. All the class information is online, so why shouldn’t your planning and time management for assignments be on the computer, too?

Diane Hamilton, author of “The Online Student’s User Manual,” says she’s a fan of the free iGoogle service because it allows students to keep track of and access their calendars and course information from anywhere. That’s helpful, even in the worst-case scenario.

Hamilton, who teaches for six online universities, says that even if your computer crashes, your schedules and assignments will be accessible through any computer.

Have you tried using iGoogle or other sites to manage your college coursework and other activities, and what have you found are the pros? Or what should students know if they’re trying to use more web tools to manage their assignments?

-Lori Johnston

Posting Teacher’s Reviews Online – What is RateMyProfessor?

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  What is the site ratemyprofessor.com all about?

Ratemyprofessor.com is a website dedicated to allowing students to find out more about their professors and the courses they are going to take before they begin class. The site allows students to give their opinion of the classes and the instructors of those classes they have taken previously.  It is not unlike the rating one would give a book they have read on Amazon.  Because of that, you will see a wide variety of responses on there.  Some students may write wonderful, glowing comments, while others write less flattering things.  You can search for a professor or a school on the site.  I have found it to be the most accurate to first search for the school and then look for the individual professor within that school where they are listed alphabetically.  To search for the school, you would type in the upper right hand search box.  It will then give you a list of schools.  Click on the one you want and then it will pull up a screen that lets you browse by last name of the professor. 

I haven’t heard as many of my students refer to this site lately. It seemed a lot more popular a few years ago.  It is kind of a fun little site to see what others are saying. However, just as with any review, you have to realize there could be “sour grapes”.  A student who may not have done well in the course may be more likely to say something negative about the professor.  Also there is a lot of subjectivity so what may be a horrible class to one may be a wonderful class to another.  The information is fun but it should be taken with a grain of salt. 

To see my ratings, you can go to the following links for some of my schools:  1, 2, 3, 4

As I mentioned, it is not new to publish information about professors online.  However, there is a new trend that has some people up in arms.  Take a look at a recent NPR article where the author mentions that 6,000 elementary teachers in Los Angeles will see their names published online, along with data showing how much their students improved on standardized tests by clicking here.