Conflicted: Faculty and Online Learning, 2012

A study by the Babson Survey Research Group (BSRG) and Inside Higher Ed shows faculty with more exposure to online education take an optimistic view of it.

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 21 -- College and university faculty members are more pessimistic than optimistic about online education and remain far more skeptical about learning outcomes in online programs than are academic technology administrators on their campuses. But faculty members with a greater exposure to online education take a more optimistic view than their peers.

Those are among the key findings of a new study by the Babson Survey Research Group and Inside Higher Ed on faculty views on online learning. The study is based on two national surveys, one of more than 4,500 teaching faculty and a second of academic technology administrators. Inside Higher Ed’s article on the study (and links to the report) can be found at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/conflicted-faculty-and-online-education-2012.

Among the findings:
  • 58 percent of the professors surveyed describe themselves as having “more fear than excitement” about the growth of online learning; more than 80 percent of academic technology administrators, on the other hand, say they feel more excitement than fear.
  • Nearly two-thirds of faculty members say they believe that the learning outcomes for an online course are inferior or somewhat inferior to those for a comparable face-to-face course. Even among those with a strong vested interest in online education – faculty members who are currently teaching online courses – considerable concern remains about the quality of the learning outcomes.
  • A third of instructors think that their institutions are pushing too much instruction online, compared to fewer than 10 percent of administrators.
  • For all the faculty skepticism, the study provides evidence that professors gain more confidence in online learning as they become more involved with it.  And on the most basic question asked of faculty at institutions with online offerings – have you recommended an online course to a student or advisee? – 60 percent of faculty reported that they had.  The figure grows to 87 percent for those who teach online. 
"We conducted this survey in the hope of bringing all voices to the debate over online education, and in particular the views of faculty members, who frequently argue that they are ignored on these matters," says Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed. "What's striking is that many of the questions suggest both faculty skepticism and faculty engagement with online education. We hope these results may be conversation starters at many campuses as they consider ways to enhance online programs."
For more information about the study, please contact Editors Doug Lederman (doug.lederman@insidehighered.com) or Scott Jaschik (scott.jaschik@insidehighered.com).
Financial support for this project was provided by CourseSmart, Deltak, Pearson and Sonic Foundry.
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The Babson Survey Research Group in the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College conducts regional, national, and international research projects, including survey design, sampling methodology, data integrity, statistical analyses, and reporting. Visit Babson Survey Research Group online at http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com.
Inside Higher Ed (http://insidehighered.com) is a national online publication and jobs service for all of higher education. The site's 1 million unique monthly visitors and 93,000 daily e-mail subscribers count on Inside Higher Ed for authoritative news coverage, insightful commentary, helpful career advice, and a vibrant jobs service with roughly 7,000 positions advertised.

By Nancy Sullivan | 6/21/2012 1:15 PM