Exploring the Needs and Perceptions of Online Faculty towards Faculty Professional Development: A Qualitative Study
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AbstractThis dissertation examined the perceptions, motivations and needs of online instructors for professional development and the way evaluation is used to improve online teaching. This study informs our understanding of how to best serve the needs of online instructors for professional development which improves the quality of their online teaching. Using a descriptive, qualitative method, surveys, instructor interviews, instructor focus groups, and administrator interviews were conducted at two university extension programs in the Western United States. The survey data were examined using frequency analysis and independent sample t-tests to compare the needs of instructors at the two institutions, to compare new and veteran instructors, and to compare instructors teaching one course with those teaching multiple courses. Interview and focus group data were coded according to categories developed from the research questions. Interview and focus group data were then compared to identify consistent themes between the types of data. The findings from the research suggest that instructors perceive faculty professional development as not fully meeting their needs; the perceptions of faculty development are strongly influenced by messages sent at different levels of the organization; that instructors’ motivations to attend faculty professional development is directly related to how they perceive its value; and that instructors have a need for community and faculty development that serves their needs at various stages of their careers. The findings are discussed and recommendations are made for professional development practice and future research.