FAU Faculty Survey for Distance Learning Online Courses, Summer Office Hours 2014 Results Summary and Recommendations

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1 FAU Faculty Survey for Distance Learning Online Courses, Summer Office Hours 2014 Results Summary and Recommendations Background Over the past several years, FAU has invested substantial financial and personnel resources in expertly training FAU faculty to develop and teach online courses through the Center for elearning, and the faculty has invested extensive time in developing such courses. Faculty who teach online courses as part of a summer assignment can simultaneously avail themselves of enhanced flexibility for travel related to research, off-campus collaborations, outreach, professional service, and other professional opportunities. An updated summer office hours policy can mutually support faculty summer professional activities and the specific conditions of off-contract summer assignments contained in Article 9.5 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Faculty teaching and student demand for summer online courses is higher than in other semesters (16.5% of all courses for summer 2014, compared with 12.3% and 12.6% for fall 2014 and spring 2015, respectively) and summer online courses facilitate student success and graduation rates. However, the 2008 Provost s Office Hours Policy that addresses online courses and mandates on-campus consultations with students has not been updated to incorporate and reflect the FAU community s progress over the past several years. Key issues are the faculty s high standards of online teaching and technological knowledge; the FAU student body s progressive experience with online courses and learning technologies; advances in teaching, advising, and communication technologies, and the unique conditions and faculty opportunities of summer assignments, including online courses. Informal interviews with faculty throughout found that the 2008 Provost s Office Hours Policy related to online courses and distance learning is applied inconsistently across the colleges, leading to different faculty opportunities for summer research and other professional travel. Interviews also found that, according to the faculty, students do not avail themselves of the mandatory office hours, particularly for summer online courses, nor did they report student demand for such office hours. This can be attributed to the many and varied ways students and teachers are continuously and collaboratively connected and engaged in the online environment via , chat rooms, discussion board, Skype, feedback through MyGrades, and more. Finally, informal interviews with the faculty found that faculty members are concerned that online students living far from campus may feel disadvantaged by on-campus office hours that are convenient only for local students. Following the Senate s approval to suspend mandatory office hours during summer 2014 as a pilot period, the Senate Sub-Committee on Distance Learning convened to study several issues around mandatory office hours for summer online courses. During its spring and fall 2014 meetings, the committee decided to conduct a survey that would help answer several questions with facts: How many courses were taught online and hybrid in summer 2014, and did instructors schedule on-campus office hours for online courses? How frequently did online 1

2 students avail themselves of scheduled and by-appointment office hours and in-person consultations? Did faculty combine such office hours with other forms of communication to assist students? In their teaching experience, does the faculty find that on-campus consultations with students are important to student success when compared with other digital and telephonic methods typically used in the online environment? Is there a reasonable or defensible difference between a Skype, FaceTime, or other real- time, technology-assisted meeting between professor and student and a face-to-face meeting on campus? With these queries in mind, the committee designed the brief survey and administered it via TypeForm from February 19-25, 2015, to approximately 200 faculty members who taught in the summer of The return rate was 78%. Survey Findings 116 faculty members responded to the survey regarding their summer online teaching assignment and office hours. These faculty together taught 155 online courses, as well as 33 hybrid and 49 F2F courses. The total number of students, undergraduate and graduate, taught in the summer 2014 online classes was 4,927. (Questions 1-5) Most taught without TA assistance (86%). (Question 7) Approximately one-third of the faculty did not hold scheduled on-campus office hours during Summer 2014 (35%), and 50% of those who did hold scheduled office hours, held them for their on-campus classes, too. (Question 6 a, b) The faculty survey data shows that a weekly average 1.7% of all online students utilized scheduled on-campus office hours. 84.5% of the faculty reported that either none or only 1 student per week attended their scheduled on-campus office hours, though 35% of these faculty members didn t have such scheduled office hours. (Question 6 c, d) During the summer term, 71% of faculty do not consider on-campus office hours to be very important to student success, 5% consider on-campus hours very important and the remaining 24% consider them to be somewhere in between in importance. (Question 9) 2

3 Using the same Likert scale, the faculty considers on-campus appointments to be slightly more important to student success than scheduled on-campus office hours. 8% considered scheduled appoints very important while 58% considered them not important. (Question 9) 62% of the faculty didn t consider on-campus office hours or appointments to be significantly different than remote methods like Skype, , Blackboard, or FaceTime to student success. 7% of the faculty did consider on-campus office hours to be significantly different than remote methods. (Question 9) 3

4 Breaking down on-campus and remote office hours to various methods, the three most important methods of communication in assisting students were , Blackboard and Phone. The three least important methods were appointments, Skype/FaceTime and walk-ins during scheduled on-campus office hours. 83% of the faculty consider very important while only 3% considered walk-ins very important. (Question 8) The faculty was asked which method of student consultation was better in the summer: 48% said remote methods were most effective, 39% said that both were equally effective, and 13% said that on-campus consultations were better. (Question 10) Recommendations Based on the survey findings, the committee recommends that the current office hours policy be changed to include language specific to summer semester, reflecting the survey findings that a large majority of the faculty find that remote methods of communicating with students are either more effective or equally effective as on-campus office hours for student success. The new language is capitalized and bolded in the policy text below: A faculty member teaching a distance education course shall conduct the normally expected total number of office hours. In order to accommodate distance education student needs, faculty may need to provide assistance other than by face-to-face meetings. If it is deemed appropriate by the faculty member, SOME OF THE normally expected office hours may be held utilizing technology to conduct business and consult with students on academic and technology issues. Faculty may designate specific times for , SKYPE (OR OTHER VIDEO CHAT), telephone or chat room consultation. THE SYLLABUS, BLACKBOARD COURSE HOMEPAGE, AND OFFICE DOOR POSTINGS FOR SUMMER SEMESTER MUST DESIGNATE THE SCHEDULE FOR THESE 4

5 CONSULTATIONS. The syllabus and office door postings FOR FALL AND SPRING SEMESTERS must, however, designate some time set aside for on campus opportunities for consultation. 5

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