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Half of Faculty 'Strongly' Agree They're Ready for Online Classes this Fall

Faculty feel ready to teach online this fall, either partially or fully. In a recent survey, 49 percent "strongly" agreed that they're prepared, while 35 percent said they "somewhat" agreed. Similarly, almost all administrators (96 percent) considered their institutions ready for online delivery of courses; 58 percent strongly agreed and 38 percent somewhat agreed.

To help faculty prepare, most schools have provided several forms of professional development resources, primarily live or recorded webinars (mentioned by 83 percent of respondents) and self-paced training (55 percent). Less than half of survey participants mentioned training available through an online resource hub (48 percent), the availability of an online faculty community (43 percent), faculty-mentoring (41 percent) or in-person training (30 percent). However, there was a gap between how faculty felt about the various training methods compared to administrators. For example, whereas 85 percent of administrators said webinars were the most effective form of PD, 69 percent of instructors said the same.

These survey results surfaced during the latest "Digital Learning Pulse Survey," produced by Bay View Analytics in partnership with four online learning organizations and underwritten by Cengage. Similar to the methodology followed in a spring-time survey, this survey was conducted online during two weeks in August. It received responses from 887 faculty and administrators representing 597 different institutions. The information was merged with data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Faculty at two-year and four-year private colleges felt more prepared to teach online than faculty at four-year public institutions — 88 percent versus 81 percent.

Faculty said success with their online teaching required student engagement in various forms. The most common was e-mail (cited by 94 percent), followed by one-on-one videoconferences (74 percent) and small group videoconferences (57 percent). Text messaging and social media were the least used approaches (27 percent and 9 percent, respectively).

Researchers reported that while almost half of faculty and administrators across all institution types were optimistic about the future of higher education, there was definitely still room for improvement. Among administrators, 46 percent called themselves optimistic about the overall future of higher education, 23 percent said they were pessimistic and 31 percent called themselves "neutral." Faculty were overall less hopeful; 42 percent said they were optimistic; 27 percent were neutral and 31 percent were pessimistic.

Faculty were more optimistic about the future of their specific institutions (46 percent), as were administrators (57 percent).

Level of outlook expressed by faculty and administrators

Level of outlook expressed by faculty and administrators. Source: "Digital Learning Pulse Survey," produced by Bay View Analytics and Cengage

"Compared to our initial research in April, this second survey shows a marked increase in the level of confidence of higher education faculty and administrators. A host of professional development resources have been made available and educators have put considerable time and effort into preparing for teaching in the new COVID-19 reality, and it shows," said Jeff Seaman, lead researcher and director of Bay View Analytics, in a press release.

"The unanticipated sudden switch from in-person to remote learning left many feeling unprepared, but fortunately our network jumped into action and provided peers with the best practices, guidance and resources they needed to succeed," added Jennifer Mathes, CEO of the Online Learning Consortium, one of the project's participating organizations. "From Washington to Florida and everywhere in between, we are encouraged to see faculty and administrators turning challenges presented by the pandemic into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve access and quality for learners around the country."

"What is most striking about the findings are the faculty perceptions of how effective professional development they received was for their online teaching. Compared to the sentiments expressed in the 2020 spring semester, the vast majority of faculty reported feeling prepared to teach online to some extent in the fall," noted Nicole Johnson, research director of the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association, another participating organization.

A more complete report is in production and will be published and made available with registration on the Cengage website. Currently, registrants receive access to an infographic with partial results and a recording of an hour-long webinar covering the findings.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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