A Meta-Synthesis on the Onboarding Needs of Novice Online Part-time Faculty

The focus of this project was to explore best practices and provide recommendations for preparing novice online part-time faculty (NOPTF) to teach in the college or university undergrad environment. The key issues include the influence of pedagogy on effective learning in an online environment, the unique challenges presented by the online learning environment (OLE), and the professional development requirements presented by NOPTF. This research has the potential to have a positive impact on NOPTF by increasing the quality of their work, which, in turn, will improve learning experiences for students. This research was conducted through the lens of Adult Learning Theory, chosen for its focus on the specific instructional needs of adults. While this theory has undergone criticism and revision in its nearly fifty-year history, its foundational tenets, including the need for adults to be treated as equals and collaborators in their own learning, remain relevant.  The methodology was a qualitative, inductive, meta-synthesis built on an epistemological foundation rooted in subtle realism, supported by primary interviews with two participants. Data was gathered from English language journal articles published no earlier than 2015 and the method for conducting the meta-synthesis was a variation on template analysis.  The analysis of the findings indicated that professional development designed to prepare NOPTF to begin teaching online should focus on the provision of an online pedagogical foundation built on engagement strategies and teaching presence, supported by technical competency in the affordances provided by an OLE. This professional development should be facilitated to germinate a connection between NOPTF and their institution, orienting them to institutional values and teaching philosophies. The research resulted in six recommendations:

  • Include foundational online pedagogical training for NOPTF focused on student engagement and teaching presence.
  • Offer introductory technical training on the affordances of the institution’s learning management system.
  • Conduct orientation in an OLE that provides NOPTF a learning experience from the perspective of a student.
  • Train NOPTF to access learning analytics and implement intervention techniques for disengaged learners.
  • Facilitate synchronous sessions during orientation to introduce NOPTF to support personnel, thereby beginning the development of an institutional connection.
  • Provide an opportunity for NOPTF to make requests for the inclusion of their own learning outcomes during orientation, in addition to those required by the institution

Recommendations for future research include a primary qualitative methodology into the experiences of NOPTF throughout the orientation and facilitation of their first teaching experience in an online environment.