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, ‚ÄúThe 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‚Äôt give students the attention they deserve and they can‚Äôt apply the rigor they should.‚ÄĚ

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, ‚ÄúNearly 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.‚Ä̬† 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, ‚ÄúEvery year, several hundred thousand students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams. The victims of these scams lose more than $100 million annually.‚Ä̬† 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, ‚ÄúThe 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.‚ÄĚ

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‚Äôs 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. ‚ÄúTravel and entertainment are major expenses for universities. For example, Kansas State University spent $9 million in travel and entertainment related expenses in 2010.‚ÄĚ For the complete list explaining where your funds are being spent, click here.