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LeagueTLC Innovation Express
Exploring Issues, Innovations, and New Developments with Information Technology Professionals

The Online Faculty Teaching Excellence Network (OFTEN)

Suellyn Winkle
Project Director, English Faculty

Anne Kress
Title III Program Coordinator
Santa Fe Community College, FL

On a growing national scale, increasing numbers of adjunct faculty are being hired to teach in postsecondary institutions. Recent figures from the Chronicle of Higher Education indicate that 48% of all higher education institutions have experienced a net gain in the use of part-time faculty. This noted, strong evidence in educational trends and budgetary constraints suggest that institutions will remain dependent upon adjunct faculty in our future. 

Despite the increasing dependence upon adjunct faculty in higher education, comparatively little has been done to fully integrate adjunct faculty into the college community. In many cases, adjuncts are unable to access most programs designed to educate them about the departments and colleges they work for and schedules often do not permit attendance at workshops or meetings. Thus, adjuncts, who clearly need college information relevant to department and organizational structure, process, and policy, are seriously underinformed about the institutional infrastructure of their employers. This content is crucial to the adjunct's role in the classroom, connection to students, development of course content, and available classroom technologies and services. The Online Faculty Teaching Excellence Network (OFTEN) at Santa Fe Community College, developed through FIPSE-funded support, offers adjuncts an online means of communicating with the institution, the department, and fellow faculty in an effort to integrate them more fully into the college community.

Project Development
To achieve the goal of integrating adjuncts into the college as faculty, rather than as a marginal group, a first step in the project was the development of technology tools and optional avenues of access to necessary college information. These tools, including WWW, email, and discussion boards, promote interaction and dialogue rather than repeat the novice-professional model that has crippled many training programs in the past. Recognizing their fragmented schedules and limited on-campus hours, current learning and interactive technologies now allow adjuncts to surmount obstacles by incorporating an anytime (24x7), anywhere format that is almost impossible in traditional face-to-face methods of training and integration. An underlying belief of the Online Faculty Teaching Excellence Network is that as adjuncts use this technology to increase their own effectiveness as instructors, they are also learning how to learn-and teach-in online environments. Through these activities, they are exposed to the technologies that are requisite tools for all students and faculty as we move into new teaching/learning paradigms.

Project Implementation
The first department template of OFTEN was developed and implemented by the English Department in the fall of 1998. Within two years, the resource network was expanded and implemented in learning environments for adjuncts throughout all the departments in SFCC's Arts and Sciences departments. Development faculty from each discipline adapted the existing site template to their specific departmental needs. In addition, web-based discussion groups and online adjunct mentoring were included to round out the online environment. The vision of each department hosting a content and information rich website for faculty is an ongoing work-in-progress that can be continually updated to meet adjunct needs and frequently revised based on adjunct feedback. The initial English Department web design changed from original inception through input and suggestions from part-time faculty during implementation stages. As the website grows in use, content, and creativity, the development of a database to archive and allow access to greater numbers of resources is a capstone goal. 

Throughout the three-year funded project, directors of OFTEN have been tracking changes in adjunct course design and delivery and adjunct performance based on syllabus evaluation, classroom visits, several baseline measures (student evaluations, accurate student advisement, time-to-degree advancement, retention rates, GPAs, and exam passing rates), and qualitative surveys. Through the use of collective data, analysis of transformational events, and changes in teaching, the training environment for adjuncts is regularly monitored and measured as a critical objective of the project. With the goals of enhancing adjunct teaching effectiveness, increasing the sense of college community among adjuncts, and improving the adjunct faculty's ability to integrate technology in their courses, project leaders have analyzed Web logs to determine the strengths of the Online Faculty Teaching Excellence Network, patterns of usage, and applications in the learning environment. 

Results
Santa Fe Community College has successfully implemented the Online Faculty Teaching Excellence Network (OFTEN) in Arts and Sciences and has included additional services for developmental educators through the Academic Resources College Preparatory English program. As requests for the OFTEN site templates grow, other divisions may use the web-based delivery approach to post teaching materials and training updates. 

In addition to the growth and development of adjunct training services and delivery, every department in Arts and Sciences now supports an updated, fully networked computer in a designated adjunct office setting. To counter obstacles to access, every adjunct faculty member is assigned an e-mail account and offered designated space to OFTEN or their respective department website. 

Three exciting and unanticipated outcomes of the project have led to the creation of a stronger campus adjunct voice. Santa Fe Community College adjunct faculty have developed their own website, which includes a listserv of resource links to SFCC information as well as national association highlights dedicated to serving adjunct college faculty. In addition, the creation of an online newsletter, The Adjunct Advocate Newsletter, focuses on SFCC facilities and benefits available to both full and part-time faculty. Lastly, with more information and fuller integration in the college community, SFCC has created two seats on the College Senate for adjunct representatives. 

A final point of analysis includes data from the English department gathered over the course of three years concerning grades assigned in required English courses over three levels (101, 102, and 103). The results suggest that the history of gaps between the higher and lower grades traditionally assigned by adjuncts, more A's and more F's, has begun to diminish as those grades are grouping more consistently with grades assigned by full-time faculty. This alludes to an increasingly cohesive community of professionals concentrating on the efforts and skill-based outcomes of students in the learning environment. 

For additional information, please contact:

Suellyn Winkle
Project Director, OFTEN

Anne Kress
English Department, Faculty Chair

or visit:

Online Faculty Teaching Excellence Network

 

 

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