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 a tech support perspective and pedagogy, a pedagogical support wasn't available either, and so what I would hear were common complaints like lack of interaction and motivation. They were dealing with technical issues and the bottom line as is that faculty just more equipped 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 at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect Evu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Kathleen Ives, Senior Vice President for engagement at UPSEA. Kathleen, welcome to the show. Well, thank you so much, Eric. That's good to be here. Really excited to have you here and talk with you today 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 on both upsea and your rule there. Yeah, so, obseeus stands for the university, professional and Continuing Education Association and we are a member for the association that focuses on Best Practices in higher education. And my background in online education is I actually was an online student. I got my doctor an online and I 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 online learning consortium. So that's just a little bit about me. I love that you can tap into your faculty, students and professional lanes for this conversation. Absolutely, Cathleen. To kick US off...

...today, our emergency remote learning experience at the beginning of the pandemic appears to have been a largely negative experience for both students and faculty. But has faculties perception of online learning actually improved since, you know, I hate to answer this question. It depends, but I'm going to. It really depends on the institution and the lessons learned and applied. So that perception was typically held by faculty that were new to online teaching and learning, which in turn, obviously would impact the student's perception if the instructor wasn't comfortable, and you might ask why. And for many of these 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 were common complaints like lack of interaction and motivation. They were dealing with technical issues and the bottom line as is that faculty just weren't equipped to handle these tasks. Again, these are faculty that are new to online and so then you'd layer on the additional issues like working at home and mental health issues for students, because often they became counselors for students as well. It was pretty overwhelming, and so that's why the perception was clouded and if the institution hasn't stepped up since this whole thing started, it still remains clouded for this particular population. 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 I think my question, and I think a lot of this kind of counterintuitive researchs coming 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 least had more experience teaching within it,...

...even if they haven't had the support they'd like from their institution, and as we learn more and more about what works and doesn't, why aren't we seeing a a faculty favorability increase? What's happening is, and I know, as you will know in your listeners well know, is that the pandemics effect included deep cuts and institutional revenue as well as in student enrollment. So even if an institution felt that online education was equal to face to face after all of this, or even better, if there was no money to invest in the technology and there was no money to invest 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 that there was and still is lower participation from low income students, students of color and students lo located in remote areas. So the whole notion of accessibility and support and equity is a huge concern right now again for faculty, particularly if there is no institution wide support services or even proactive advising models. You mentioned this concept of it's been a hard couple years, not only for faculty but for the population in aggregate. Do you have a feeling of what role faculty burn out from last two years is playing in terms of not only their attitude and to look out look in general, but specifically toward online learning? Do we know enough to be able to separate if there's having a hard time in general versus really we think there's a fundamental issue with online learning that we're not able to get over that hurdle. Yeah, so I think let's define burnout so we're kind of have the same definition as we're having this conversation. So for me, burn out it results from unclear expectations of responsibilities, unhealthy work environments, 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 job security and you're working around the clock. And the other thing that's really important to consider is the emotional weight of the job. So the faculty rule is one that's filled with tasks that require a lot of emotional energy and the other thing too, is that it's often a really solitary journey I think what's really important 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 had to translate facetoface work to an online modality, support their students, own mental health and juggle their own personal and family responsibilities. And the bottom line is online is more work. There's no way getting around it. However, the good news is that the pandemic brought Backley burn out to the forefront with those that are immersed in online education. You know, in many institutions, as I'm sure you well know, online education might be just in one department or in a unit and really senior level administrators don't really have an idea as to what goes into creating and delivering an online course. And so now that's all out on the table. Right faculty voices have been heard and so many institutions right now are beginning to take a more holistic look at how they can help ease 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 understanding that translates through the whole institution, maybe...

...even creating opportunities for faculty to get together virtually and share best practices that they can't get together facetoface and maybe even that, and seek suggestions. Some institutions are creating peer mentoring programs, which is really helpful. And then, I think the other thing too, is online education. And again I know this from being a faculty member and a student. 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 mentioned how faculties attitudes may depend very greatly depending on what institution they're coming from and what kind of larger tech and institutional wide support they're receiving. Can you point to any silver lining examples here, examples of the online experience improving last year from a faculty standpoint, so to give us some hopecap thee. Yeah, yeah, so so, Eric, there was a survey that was conducted in April 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 the option 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 by Bay View, Ana Linux and partnership with my organization, as well as several other organizations. I'm actually currently working on editing an authoring a book. It's my 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 that diverse groups of institutions, like a for year for profit and Hbcu, to your technical etc. And I asked them about the pandemic and they all agree that 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 mean there's all kinds of other things that are happening. I think Internet and technology access has become a priority in education as well as with the United States government. Take the controversial infrastructure build that's currently being debated, and there's been so many technological advances within the past eighteen months. I actually been using a tool 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 lot of the work and helps frame that that practice accordingly. The other thing I wanted to point out, Eric, is that pedagogical best practices is now come to the forefront. So at my organization, professional development and rollments are on the rise and faculty that I talked to are reporting that they're paying greater attention to planning their curriculum and strategies, thinking about an online learning space, which they 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 that some new to online students are actually thriving in an online class room. And and let's talk about students that may suffer from anxiety disorders or maybe are dealing with some some disabilities, and the online learning environment can actually be a safe space for them. Cathleen, you mentioned this in terms of finding communities and places for faculty to talk, share learn from each other. Vent what can we do to make sure that that conversation happens within an institution, within a broader 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's part. There's no magic bullet. I mean, we're now existing. You know, I hate to call it new normal. I think everyone calls it that, but who knows what the new normal is, but it's changing every day. So maybe I it's better couched and we're living in a time of ambiguity and we may be living in that time for a while. And so what I would do is encourage people to share what you don't know, as well as what you gained with with other faculty administrators, members of your own academic community and again, if you belong to an association, if you're working with vendors, these are great places to go and find out what they've learned during the pandemic and what they can share. Conducting your own research. And yeah, maybe this is a little bit labor intensive, but just in reading you 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 being implemented. For example, I've heard about an institution that is enhancing Wi fi networks 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 Creating Faculty coaching and mentoring models. so by staying engaged and proactively seeking out you can, you can learn these things. And I think I also would say don't ignore the student boys. So they've got a lot of the opinions about these past eighteen lenths, and just even conduct an informal survey with them to find 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 of physical reminders that tell us when things are...

...due, but you don't necessarily in a remote environment. And also, if they're working on group projects, helping them establish a methodology to communicate regularly and even maybe provide a platform for them to do that. So these are just some thoughts I have on how we can make sure that we're learning from up what others are doing. So many wonderful 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't covered. That's our top of mine, from from living in this trifoled world of of, you know, student, faculty and professional any final next steps? Advice for institutions? Listening, aware of the problem, aren't too sure what 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 only their faculties perception of the online instructional experience but their reality. Where should they start? How should they try to prioritize that task? Sure I think the 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 they call it the time for class the covid nineteen addition, and I'd like to share some of their suggestions because I think they're just so, so timely and right on. First of all, they said that we should begin to use the 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 is that there is a positive momentum in terms of faculty attitude. It's about the potential of online learning and that adoption of digital learning practices and tools are occurring at record rates. And the other thing that I think you know, getting back to your good news questions, is that institutions are moving beyond band aids to scaling approaches to deliver high quality online...

...instruction. The second thing that they offer 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 of equity, which continues to remain a systemic and major concern for faculties such as myself as we plan instruction and rely on Institution Wide Support Services and proactive advising models. The third thing, and I'm going to I'm going to elaborate a little bit more on this one because I think it's so important, is to provide support in the selection and implementation of digital tools and pedagogy effectively. So the pandemic prompted permanent shifts for many institutions and digital tool adoption. But the main thing here is that faculty reported that they were truly overwhelmed with the sheer volume of choices, as you can imagine. So what they've been doing is their prefuence, you know, and I get it it's an easy one to do, is to adopt from, you know, existing trusted venders that tools have been been vetted and supported by their institution. But what Titan says is that how a digital course were tools implement implemented, excuse me, matters more than the product selected and determining faculty satisfaction. So I thought that was a really important point to kind of focus on. Just two more things that I that I want to add eric is the you know, getting back to being more student centric. Really focus on the students having the right tools and they're prepared to learn online. As I mentioned earlier, faculty or noting that students continue to need guidance and resources and ordered in order to be effective. So you need to develop an institutions need to develop some consistency and delivering their online courses for students. And then, finally,...

Titan really emphasize that institutions need to assess their digital learning infrastructure and business models. What they noted is that transitioning to a future with more digital instruction requires a big transformation of existing business models, institutional policies and practices, and so selecting and implementing tools and providing professional development is really important in this new normal. Kathleen, thank you so much for your time and your wonderful thoughts today. What's the best place for listeners 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 reach out to me and if I don't know the answer, I certainly can direct them to someone that does. Awesome, Kathleen, thanks so much for joining us today. Thank you again, Eric, from having me. Attracting today's new post 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 this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing 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 you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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