Faculty Perception of Online Learning Since the Pandemic

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Kathleen Ives, Senior Vice President for Engagement at UPCEA, joins the podcast to discuss why faculty perception of online learning hasn’t really improved since the start of the pandemic and the institutional support differences where she’s seeing some exceptions to that rule.

The infrastructure wasn't in place from atech support perspective and pedagogy, a pedagogical support wasn't available either, and sowhat I would hear were common complaints like lack of interaction and motivation. Theywere dealing with technical issues and the bottom line as is that faculty just moreequipped to handle these tasks. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment attheir college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategiesor tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get intothe show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of theconnect Evu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here todaywith Dr Kathleen Ives, Senior Vice President for engagement at UPSEA. Kathleen,welcome to the show. Well, thank you so much, Eric. That'sgood to be here. Really excited to have you here and talk with youtoday about our faculties perception of online learning since the start of the pandemic.Before we dig into that, can you give the listeners a little background onboth upsea and your rule there. Yeah, so, obseeus stands for the university, professional and Continuing Education Association and we are a member for the associationthat focuses on Best Practices in higher education. And my background in online education isI actually was an online student. I got my doctor an online andI also am currently an adjunct professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology here in Boston. Prior to my position at UPCA, I was the CEO of the onlinelearning consortium. So that's just a little bit about me. I love thatyou can tap into your faculty, students and professional lanes for this conversation.Absolutely, Cathleen. To kick US off...

...today, our emergency remote learning experienceat the beginning of the pandemic appears to have been a largely negative experience forboth students and faculty. But has faculties perception of online learning actually improved since, you know, I hate to answer this question. It depends, butI'm going to. It really depends on the institution and the lessons learned andapplied. So that perception was typically held by faculty that were new to onlineteaching and learning, which in turn, obviously would impact the student's perception ifthe instructor wasn't comfortable, and you might ask why. And for many ofthese institutions the infrastructure wasn't in place from a tech support perspective and Pedigo Gene, a pedagogical support, wasn't available either, and so what I would hear werecommon complaints like lack of interaction and motivation. They were dealing with technicalissues and the bottom line as is that faculty just weren't equipped to handle thesetasks. Again, these are faculty that are new to online and so thenyou'd layer on the additional issues like working at home and mental health issues forstudents, because often they became counselors for students as well. It was prettyoverwhelming, and so that's why the perception was clouded and if the institution hasn'tstepped up since this whole thing started, it still remains clouded for this particularpopulation. Yeah, I think all those factors make a lot of sense,especially the we weren't ready to provide a great experience this quickly. But Ithink my question, and I think a lot of this kind of counterintuitive researchscoming back is, is why isn't our online experience progressively improving over time?Now that we've had time to improve it, now that our faculty is at leasthad more experience teaching within it,...

...even if they haven't had the supportthey'd like from their institution, and as we learn more and more about whatworks and doesn't, why aren't we seeing a a faculty favorability increase? What'shappening is, and I know, as you will know in your listeners wellknow, is that the pandemics effect included deep cuts and institutional revenue as wellas in student enrollment. So even if an institution felt that online education wasequal to face to face after all of this, or even better, ifthere was no money to invest in the technology and there was no money toinvest in faculty development, this experience didn't change for faculty or for the students. And the other thing that I think is also important to know is thatthere was and still is lower participation from low income students, students of colorand students lo located in remote areas. So the whole notion of accessibility andsupport and equity is a huge concern right now again for faculty, particularly ifthere is no institution wide support services or even proactive advising models. You mentionedthis concept of it's been a hard couple years, not only for faculty butfor the population in aggregate. Do you have a feeling of what role facultyburn out from last two years is playing in terms of not only their attitudeand to look out look in general, but specifically toward online learning? Dowe know enough to be able to separate if there's having a hard time ingeneral versus really we think there's a fundamental issue with online learning that we're notable to get over that hurdle. Yeah, so I think let's define burnout sowe're kind of have the same definition as we're having this conversation. Sofor me, burn out it results from unclear expectations of responsibilities, unhealthy workenvironments, lack of control over workload and...

...also that lack of work life balance. And if you're an adjunct it's even more stressful because you don't have jobsecurity and you're working around the clock. And the other thing that's really importantto consider is the emotional weight of the job. So the faculty rule isone that's filled with tasks that require a lot of emotional energy and the otherthing too, is that it's often a really solitary journey I think what's reallyimportant to note to is that faculty burnout is not a system of the pandemic. The pandemic exacerbated this, particularly for those new to online because they hadto translate facetoface work to an online modality, support their students, own mental healthand juggle their own personal and family responsibilities. And the bottom line isonline is more work. There's no way getting around it. However, thegood news is that the pandemic brought Backley burn out to the forefront with thosethat are immersed in online education. You know, in many institutions, asI'm sure you well know, online education might be just in one department orin a unit and really senior level administrators don't really have an idea as towhat goes into creating and delivering an online course. And so now that's allout on the table. Right faculty voices have been heard and so many institutionsright now are beginning to take a more holistic look at how they can helpease and avoid burn out, from mental health initiatives to other types of support, and I think the key is is establishing a culture of support and understandingthat translates through the whole institution, maybe...

...even creating opportunities for faculty to gettogether virtually and share best practices that they can't get together facetoface and maybe eventhat, and seek suggestions. Some institutions are creating peer mentoring programs, whichis really helpful. And then, I think the other thing too, isonline education. And again I know this from being a faculty member and astudent. Often as seen as a seven environment. Students have no you,no hesitation to email you or call you at any time of day or night, and so just respecting that work life balance is super important. He mentionedhow faculties attitudes may depend very greatly depending on what institution they're coming from andwhat kind of larger tech and institutional wide support they're receiving. Can you pointto any silver lining examples here, examples of the online experience improving last yearfrom a faculty standpoint, so to give us some hopecap thee. Yeah,yeah, so so, Eric, there was a survey that was conducted inApril of this year and it showed that, despite the quick transition from online learning, a majority of students want, believe this, they're not want theoption to take courses in a fully online format and for those that are interested, the survey is called the digital learning pulse survey and it was published byBay View, Ana Linux and partnership with my organization, as well as severalother organizations. I'm actually currently working on editing an authoring a book. It'smy second book for Stylus Publishing, about return on investment and online higher education. And as part of my research I had the opportunity to interview presidents thatdiverse groups of institutions, like a for year for profit and Hbcu, toyour technical etc. And I asked them about the pandemic and they all agreethat they have reimagined their strategic plans to incorporate best practices learned and in fact, some of them have accelerated some of...

...their technology plans because of the pandemic. So I think that's that's good news. The other thing too, I meanthere's all kinds of other things that are happening. I think Internet andtechnology access has become a priority in education as well as with the United Statesgovernment. Take the controversial infrastructure build that's currently being debated, and there's beenso many technological advances within the past eighteen months. I actually been using atool called pack back, which is an AI power discussion platform that really helps, you know, it helps me mitigate my workload because it does a lotof the work and helps frame that that practice accordingly. The other thing Iwanted to point out, Eric, is that pedagogical best practices is now cometo the forefront. So at my organization, professional development and rollments are on therise and faculty that I talked to are reporting that they're paying greater attentionto planning their curriculum and strategies, thinking about an online learning space, whichthey really you know, many of them hadn't been doing before. And finally, and I think this is also really interesting and not surprising, is thatsome new to online students are actually thriving in an online class room. Andand let's talk about students that may suffer from anxiety disorders or maybe are dealingwith some some disabilities, and the online learning environment can actually be a safespace for them. Cathleen, you mentioned this in terms of finding communities andplaces for faculty to talk, share learn from each other. Vent what canwe do to make sure that that conversation happens within an institution, within abroader system, within the the broader national system to make sure that we're learning, we're leveraging from everyone else's online learning...

...experiences right now. Good and bad? That's a great question and I think it's going to take effort on everyone'spart. There's no magic bullet. I mean, we're now existing. Youknow, I hate to call it new normal. I think everyone calls itthat, but who knows what the new normal is, but it's changing everyday. So maybe I it's better couched and we're living in a time ofambiguity and we may be living in that time for a while. And sowhat I would do is encourage people to share what you don't know, aswell as what you gained with with other faculty administrators, members of your ownacademic community and again, if you belong to an association, if you're workingwith vendors, these are great places to go and find out what they've learnedduring the pandemic and what they can share. Conducting your own research. And yeah, maybe this is a little bit labor intensive, but just in readingyou know and listening to podcast such as the ones that you all put out, you can hear about interesting things that are you know, that are beingimplemented. For example, I've heard about an institution that is enhancing Wi finetworks with solar power charged stations and creating hot spot and laptop loan programs,and even simple things like providing business phone access to those working remotely and CreatingFaculty coaching and mentoring models. so by staying engaged and proactively seeking out youcan, you can learn these things. And I think I also would saydon't ignore the student boys. So they've got a lot of the opinions aboutthese past eighteen lenths, and just even conduct an informal survey with them tofind out what they felt worked and didn't work. The other thing, too, is many of them still need coaching on how to navigate the online environment. You know, even how to plan to study in a remote environment.It may seem obvious to some because in facetoface classes we have a lot ofphysical reminders that tell us when things are...

...due, but you don't necessarily ina remote environment. And also, if they're working on group projects, helpingthem establish a methodology to communicate regularly and even maybe provide a platform for themto do that. So these are just some thoughts I have on how wecan make sure that we're learning from up what others are doing. So manywonderful pots they're Kathleen, it would probably steals into my last question for you. Maybe this is a good dis wrap up question of things that we haven'tcovered. That's our top of mine, from from living in this trifoled worldof of, you know, student, faculty and professional any final next steps? Advice for institutions? Listening, aware of the problem, aren't too surewhat to do about it. In besides, let's hope that, you know,the new normal becomes the old normal. They do want to improve not onlytheir faculties perception of the online instructional experience but their reality. Where shouldthey start? How should they try to prioritize that task? Sure I thinkthe best advice that I've been sharing actually came from an organization called Titan partners, and last year they published a paper called time for class, and theycall it the time for class the covid nineteen addition, and I'd like toshare some of their suggestions because I think they're just so, so timely andright on. First of all, they said that we should begin to usethe momentum of this watershed moment, and that's their words, not mine,to elevate our approaches to online and high bred instruction. What they found isthat there is a positive momentum in terms of faculty attitude. It's about thepotential of online learning and that adoption of digital learning practices and tools are occurringat record rates. And the other thing that I think you know, gettingback to your good news questions, is that institutions are moving beyond band aidsto scaling approaches to deliver high quality online...

...instruction. The second thing that theyoffer up is to evaluate the impact this shift is having on different student populations, and I did touch on that a bit earlier. The whole notion ofequity, which continues to remain a systemic and major concern for faculties such asmyself as we plan instruction and rely on Institution Wide Support Services and proactive advisingmodels. The third thing, and I'm going to I'm going to elaborate alittle bit more on this one because I think it's so important, is toprovide support in the selection and implementation of digital tools and pedagogy effectively. Sothe pandemic prompted permanent shifts for many institutions and digital tool adoption. But themain thing here is that faculty reported that they were truly overwhelmed with the sheervolume of choices, as you can imagine. So what they've been doing is theirprefuence, you know, and I get it it's an easy one todo, is to adopt from, you know, existing trusted venders that toolshave been been vetted and supported by their institution. But what Titan says isthat how a digital course were tools implement implemented, excuse me, matters morethan the product selected and determining faculty satisfaction. So I thought that was a reallyimportant point to kind of focus on. Just two more things that I thatI want to add eric is the you know, getting back to beingmore student centric. Really focus on the students having the right tools and they'reprepared to learn online. As I mentioned earlier, faculty or noting that studentscontinue to need guidance and resources and ordered in order to be effective. Soyou need to develop an institutions need to develop some consistency and delivering their onlinecourses for students. And then, finally,...

Titan really emphasize that institutions need toassess their digital learning infrastructure and business models. What they noted is thattransitioning to a future with more digital instruction requires a big transformation of existing businessmodels, institutional policies and practices, and so selecting and implementing tools and providingprofessional development is really important in this new normal. Kathleen, thank you somuch for your time and your wonderful thoughts today. What's the best place forlisteners to reach out to your your team if they have any follow up questions? Yeah, they can reach me and I my email address is super easy. It's K I vees at UPCIA, upcacom, and feel free to reachout to me and if I don't know the answer, I certainly can directthem to someone that does. Awesome, Kathleen, thanks so much for joiningus today. Thank you again, Eric, from having me. Attracting today's newpost traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven,enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in thisnew education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollmentgrowth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's mostpressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook.You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that younever miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcastplayer. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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