Community College Faculty Perceptions of Professional Development Opportunities to Enhance the Experiences of Online Adult Degree Completing Students
Baur, Samuel A
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Online education is derivative of distance education and is a relatively new form of educational practice. Online education is growing in popularity and usage within higher education institutions and is able to cater to a wide variety of student populations with many different needs. Within online education, there is a growing population of adult learning students seeking to complete advanced degrees within their fields of interest. This increase in the online adult learning population is especially prominent within two-year higher education institutions. This qualitative phenomenology study was conducted through the lens of the social constructivist paradigm. The study is framed by a conceptual framework. The setting for this study was a public community college located in the South Plains region of Texas. The participants were six community college faculty who met the inclusion criteria to participate in the study. Data for the study were collected using semi-structured interviews and researcher’s field notes. The data collected was analyzed using the constant comparative method and coding. The findings for this study were there are barriers to supporting effective online teaching, clear and concise communication is needed, and course structure needs to be adaptable to meet the learning needs of adult students. In addition, professional development offered to faculty teaching adult learners online should provide actionable information, and limited professional developmental opportunities exist to support faculty development in the online environment. Finally, training on how to engage adult learning students regularly is important. Findings from this study lead to three recommendations for higher education practice, including faculty need to be exposed to online learning methodologies through better designed professional development opportunities, community colleges need to increase their institutional understanding of faculty needs when teaching online, and there needs to be increased online pedagogical professional development for faculty members teaching adult learners online. The results of this study can be used to inform how the study institution can better support the needs of faculty and adult learning students in the online environment through enhanced professional development for faculty. Future research addressing faculty professional development for online competence should focus on developing pedagogical skills to enhance the online environment.