Compensation Models in Distance Education: National Survey Questionnaire Revisited


Catherine C. Schifter, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Curriculum, Instruction and Technology in Education
College of Education
Temple University
454 Ritter Hall (003-00)
1301 Cecil B. Moore Avenue
Philadelphia, PA  19122
Catherine.Schifter@temple.edu

Introduction

Distance education (DE) is now closer to being main stream than many faculty and administrators in universities thought it would be.  No longer is DE considered to be novel, or only for the technologically savvy. BlackBoard™ and WebCT™, the two most widely used online course management systems, have made it easier for faculty to reach out to students at any time, in any place.  And yet, Bradburn (2002) reported data from the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty in the fall of 1998 that showed only six percent of instructional faculty and staff who reported teaching for-credit classes indicated they taught at least one distance education class.  While the data was from 1998, the sample included 980 postsecondary institutions and a total of 18,000 returned and usable faculty questionnaires.  Granted in 1998 easy access and use of the World Wide Web through web browsers was still relatively fresh. The Web was in the process of changing the nature of communication and educational opportunities, and asynchronous learning networks were being established in many institutions.  So, while it may not be remarkable that only 6% of faculty reported teaching through distance education in 1998, it is an important benchmark for current thinking and planning.

We know that the role(s) of faculty change(s) as we move from the face-to-face environment to the technology-mediated environment (Berge, 1998; Beaudoin, 1998, Schifter, 1998).  For many faculty members, losing the apparent locus of control from the traditional classroom to that of the technology mediated classroom is not comfortable.  In addition to changes in faculty teaching roles, we also need to consider how faculty are typically rewarded for their efforts, specifically through salary, promotion and tenure, or adjusted workload opportunities.  Bower (2001) reported several interesting points from the National Education Association’s (NEA), “A Survey of Traditional and Distance Education Higher Education Members” (2000).  With regard to salary, the NEA report demonstrated that 63% of those members responding to the survey indicated that distance education courses are compensated as part of their regular course load.  As for workload adjustment for teaching a DE course, the NEA report indicated that 84% of the responding members said no course reduction, or workload adjustment, was available to them.  McKenzie, Mims, Bennett, and Waugh (2000) reported, from their survey of first time DE faculty at one institution, first time DE faculty initially noted their “online class time” ranged from ten or less hours to 100% of the time. However, over the fall 1999 semester, these faculty indicated there was an increase in the “reported” time spent online in time ranges of 11 to 25 hours and 51 to 55 hours.  These authors said, “The data indicate that the vast majority of the faculty, 76%, felt they spent more time preparing and delivering WebCT™ courses compared to traditional face-to-face courses.” (p. 5) This finding supports the anecdotal reports in the DE literature, that teaching a DE online course is more time consuming for faculty than the traditional face-to-face course.

So, if faculty report that teaching a DE course is more time consuming, but also report that they are compensated for a DE course as a regular course, what can a university offer as an incentive to teach within a DE initiative?  Given the fact that DE has become more pervasive in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, have the practices used by institutions to support and compensate faculty remained the same or changed over time?  In 1999, Schifter conducted a national survey questionnaire asking DE administrators and faculty about compensation and support practices for faculty in developing and teaching DE courses.  The focus of this paper is twofold.  First the results of a new study of faculty compensation and incentives will be presented, and then an attempt will be made to compare those results to the 1999 survey questionnaire results, recognizing differences in participating institutions limits the comparison.

In the spring and summer of the year 2002, members from four national organizations were invited to participate in a survey questionnaire (see the survey questionnaire online at http://isc.temple.edu/schifter/survey/distance_survey_r2.htm). The survey asked about DE faculty compensation and incentive practices to support faculty in teaching within DE initiatives.  These organizations were the National University Telecommunications Network (NUTN), the Instructional Technology Council (ITC), the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB), and the Western Cooperative on Educational Technology (WCET).  In addition, an invitation to complete the survey questionnaire was sent to the Distance Education Online Symposium (DEOS) listserv.  The survey questionnaire and research protocol were reviewed and approved by the Temple University Institutional Review Board prior to anyone completing a survey questionnaire.  A total of 216 individuals responded to the survey questionnaire from 152 identified institutions and from 43 states.  The survey questionnaire response rate cannot be reported for due to lack of information of membership numbers for each of the participating organizations or that of the DEOS listserv, both of which fluctuates as people join or leave due the organization or listserv.  Within a university, there might be numerous individuals given access to the same request for information depending on their role within the university and distance education at the university.  The reader is cautioned that the sample population was a sample of convenience and respondents were volunteers, thus limiting the generalizability of this data.

Findings

The respondents were asked for information defining the institutions from which they came and their institution’s involvement in DE, other than print-based.  Forty-six respondents did not identify from what institution they came, and nine institutions had multiple respondents with different information due to position or point of view, like instructor or DE coordinator.  Table 1 lists the indicated types of institutions represented by the respondents.  For the 2002 survey questionnaire, respondents were asked what Carnegie category was appropriate for their institution.  Many of the respondents either did not know what these categories meant, or were unaware into which category their institution fell.  The numbers by category do not add up to one hundred percent because respondents either did not respond to these items or noted such combinations a “private, two year, liberal arts,” among other combinations.  It may appear to the reader that the preponderance of two year institutions responding to the 2002 survey questionnaire is a bit large.  These numbers in 2002 are not dissimilar to those published by the National Center for Educational Statistics Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (U.S. Department of Education, NCES, 2003) which reported that during the twelve-month 2000-2001 academic year “public institutions were more likely to offer distance education courses than were private institutions.” (p. iii)  Exactly why many more two year institutions responded to the 2002 survey questionnaire cannot be explained.

Table 1. 2002 Representative Institutions within Responding Sample

Type of Respondents

 

%

Two year institutions

 

55

Four year institutions

 

34

Research I

 

16

Research II

 

7

Liberal Arts

 

12

Public institutions

 

62

Private institutions

 

9

Not indicated

 

21

The respondents noted that their institutions had been offering DE options for less than five years (n=83, 39%), between five and ten years (n=47, 22%), and more than ten years (n=83, 38%).  The respondents from institutions that have promotion and tenure practices, participation by faculty in DE initiatives is still treated just like any other teaching assignment, service or professional development.  One respondent noted that DE counted if part of regular teaching load, but not if considered for overload teaching.  Another person stated faculty “can use the development and teaching of DL courses as one of the criteria for promotion and tenure.”  And one other respondent said, “Excellence in education does apply, but it’s challenging for faculty to develop scholarship in this area, largely due to the time involvement and lack of value of innovation in education, student evaluation of teaching and general accountability for teaching excellence.”

DE is managed by many different offices within universities and colleges.  Table 2 presents the specific responses given by the respondents.  Some respondents were confused about the difference between separate administration and separate operation.  Separate operation meant a DE program was totally separate from the rest of the institution, like a for-profit entity or with a separate faculty; while separate administration meant there was an office for distance education as part of the regular institution.  Many respondents indicated a mixture of administrative models.  See Table 2. 

Table 2. 2002 Distance Education Administrative Models

Distance Ed Admin Model

 

%

Regular Departmental Offerings

 

87

Separate Administration of DE

 

37

DE Separate Operationally

 

32

DE Part of Continuing Education

 

21

Delivery methods used many delivery methods.  Only ten respondents (5%) noted they use only the World Wide Web to delivery DE courses; while only four (2%) noted using only ITV to deliver DE courses, one (0.5%) specified using cable TV only, and two (1%) indicated no forms of delivery method.  See Table 3. 

Table 3. 2002 Distance Education Delivery Methods

DE Method

 

%

   

Used in Conjunction with

   

Nothing

listserv

Chat

White Board

Web Course Management

Internet

 

51.0

32.0

57.0

32.0

94.0

Satellite

 

  24.0

5.1

3.2

1.9

6.9

Videotape

 

41.0

9.3

8.3

3.7

24.0

Audiotape

 

15.0

2.3

1.4

0.5

6.9

CD ROM

 

23.0

7.4

7.4

2.8

22.0

PBS

Telecourse

 

32.0

6.9

5.1

2.3

17.0

ITV/Video

 

54.0

12.5

9.3

9.3

24.0

Telecourse/

Videotape

 

43.0

8.3

6.5

2.3

25.0

Respondents were asked about use of DE course management software, which is found in Table 4.  In 2002, the most frequently used management software was BlackBoard™, followed by WebCT™, and HTML.  These findings represent the extensive changes in DE course management software availability and options that have developed in the last five years, including options that may be phasing out of use and a trend away from proprietary solutions.

Table 4. 2002 Distance Education Course Management Tools

DE Tool

 

%

WebCT™

 

49.0

FirstClass™

 

4.0

TopClass™     

 

0.9

BlackBoard™ 

 

53.0

EmbaNet™

 

  1.0

Proprietary to institution

 

  6.0

FrontPage™

 

17.0

HTML

 

26.0

Other

 

19.0

The survey questionnaire specifically separated out questions about faculty compensation and incentives for developing a DE course from those about teaching a DE course.  These questions asked whether any of seven options taken from the literature were used at these institutions for faculty compensation or incentive for developing or teaching a DE course.  The information for each will be presented separately.

Compensation for developing a DE course.

Expenses paid for developing a DE course are presented in Table 5.  The most often paid expense in 2002 was software purchased at 62%.  The option least often included was the expense of a graduate assistant closely followed by faculty release time and overload pay. 

Table 5. 2002 Expenses Paid for Developing a Distance Education Course

Compensated Expenses for Developing a DE Course

 

%

   

Often Used

 

Never Used

Faculty release time

 

18

 

33

Faculty overload pay

 

34

 

32

Computer equipment purchased

 

51

 

44

Software purchased

 

62

 

32

ISP costs covered

 

37

 

56

Costs of campus service units covered

 

43

 

0

Graduate Assistants

 

16

 

72

Another question asked specifically about special funds made available as compensation or incentive for developing a DE course.  Table 6 provides these responses.  Sources for funding development of a DE course ranged from a central pool (46%), other sources (31%), course tuition (24%), and student technology or DE technology fees (18% each).

Table 6. 2002 Special Funding Opportunities for Faculty for Developing a Distance Education Course

Special Funding for Developing
a DE Course

 

%

   

Often Used

 

Never Used

Faculty travel

 

57

 

35

National conference fees

 

52

 

38

No stipulation faculty discretionary account

 

14

 

73

Respondents were asked specifically about faculty overload pay for developing a DE course.  The minimum overload pay range was $0 to $5,000, with an average minimum overload pay of over $1,620.  The maximum overload pay range was $800 - $7,500 with an average of $2,740.  It must be noted that respondents also noted special arrangements for paying overload with hourly rates, by salary schedule, collective bargaining agreements and as work for hire, in addition to whether the institution was a two year, four year, public or private institution. 

Compensation for teaching a DE course.

One section of the survey questionnaire asked questions about support to faculty teaching a DE course.  Expenses paid for teaching a DE course are presented in Table 7.  The most often paid expense was software purchases followed by computer equipment purchased.  The least often paid expense was graduate assistants, followed by ISP costs, faculty release time, and costs for campus services.

Table 7. 2002 Expenses Paid for Teaching a Distance Education Course

Compensated Expenses for Teaching a DE Course

 

%

   

Often Used

 

Never Used

Faculty release time

 

10

 

54

Faculty overload pay

 

28

 

36

Computer equipment purchased

 

45

 

43

Software purchased

 

53

 

33

ISP costs covered

 

33

 

54

Costs of campus service units covered

 

34

 

52

Graduate Assistants

 

14

 

68

Questions asked about special funding opportunities for faculty teaching a DE course.  These responses are listed in Table 8.  Funding to support teaching DE courses was reported as coming from a central pool (41%), course tuition (25%), other sources (23%), student technology fees (14%), or a DE technology fund (13%.

Table 8. 2002 Special Funding Opportunities for Faculty for Teaching a Distance Education Course

Special Funding for Developing
a DE Course

 

%

   

Often Used

 

Never Used

Faculty travel

 

54

 

30

National conference fees

 

48

 

36

No stipulation faculty discretionary account

 

12

 

67

Again, specific questions about overload pay for teaching a DE course were asked.  Four respondents indicated that they never pay overload and 87 (41%) did not answer this question.  For those who responded to these items, the minimum overload pay range for teaching a DE course was from $100 to $3500, with an average minimum overload pay of $1590.  The maximum overload pay ranged from $774 to $9000 with an average of $2900.  As with developing a course, overload pay was often governed by policies or collective bargaining agreements, in addition to whether the institution was public or private, two year or four year.

The last section of the survey questionnaire asked questions about student issues in DE, including minimum or maximum numbers of students to make the course go forward.  The minimum number of students for a DE course to run ranged from 3 to 30 with an average of 11 students per course.  The maximum number of students per course  ranged from 5 to 999, with an average of 57 students.  One respondent indicated 100 students as the maximum, and one indicated 999.  Excluding these extreme responses, the maximum DE enrollment range if 5 to 70 with a mean of 30 students per course.

Comparison to the 1999 Survey Questionnaire Data

Looking at the 2002 survey questionnaire data is interesting, but it’s not of much value without seeing whether there have been any changes since the original survey questionnaire from 1999. (Schifter, 2000)  However, such a comparison begs whether the sample populations were the same in 2002 as it was in 1999.  There were twenty-eight institutions where individuals completed both survey questionnaires, but only nine (32%) were the same individuals each time.  These differences may be reflected in the targeted national groups. In 2002 the groups were NUTN, ITC, WCET, SREB and the DEOS listserv, while in 1999 the groups were NUTN, ITC, University Continuing Education Association (UCEA), Urban 13/21 Provosts, National Association of State and Land Grant Colleges (NASLGC), Texas Association for Educational Technology, Texas Distance Education Association, the Florida Distance Education Association, and the DEOS listserv.  While these appear to be quite different, there is quite a bit of overlap since the Florida and Texas institutions are part of the SREB and many of the institutions that belong to UCEA are members of WCET.   It is also important to point out that given the expansion of distance education initiatives across the country, people have moved to new institutions, institutions are offering new and/or different programs and incentives over time. Hence, the picture that comes forth from data captured three years apart should be different.  The question is how they compare on the surface.

Table 9 lists the indicated types of institutions represented by the 2002 respondents, as compared to the 1999 study.  The numbers by category do not add up to one hundred percent because respondents either did not respond to these items or noted such combinations a “private, two year, liberal arts,” among other combinations.  The reader will notice the greater percentage of two year institutions responding to the 2002 survey questionnaire as compared to the 1999 survey questionnaire.  The ITC was included in both rounds of the survey questionnaire, so there is no way of tracking why more two year institutions participated in 2002 than in 1999.  This will skew the comparison, but we will try to factor that into the discussion.

Table 9. 2002 & 1999 Representative Institutions within Responding Sample

Type of Respondents

 

2002 %

 

1999 %

Two year institutions

 

55

 

27

Four year institutions

 

34

 

56

Research I

 

16

 

NA

Research II

 

7

 

NA

Liberal Arts

 

12

 

NA

Public institutions

 

62

 

79

Private institutions

 

9

 

10

Not indicated

     

16

 

The respondents noted that their institutions had been offering DE options for less than five years (n=83, 39% in 2002, n=83, 39% in 1999 for no change at all), between five and ten years (n=47, 22% in 2002, n=43, 20% in 1999 for minimal increase), and more than ten years (n=83, 38% in 2002, n-83, 39% in 1999 for no real change).  As in 1999, the respondents from institutions that have promotion and tenure practices, participation by faculty in DE initiatives is still treated just like any other teaching assignment, service or professional development.  One 2002 respondent noted that DE counted if part of regular teaching load, but not if considered for overload teaching.  Another person stated faculty “can use the development and teaching of DL courses as one of the criteria for promotion and tenure.”  And one other respondent said, “Excellence in education does apply, but it’s challenging for faculty to develop scholarship in this area, largely due to the time involvement and lack of value of innovation in education, student evaluation of teaching and general accountability for teaching excellence.”

DE is managed by many different offices within universities and colleges.  Table 10 presents the specific responses given by both the 1999 and 2002 respondents.  In both 1999 and 2002, some respondents were confused about the difference between separate administration and separate operation.  Separate operation meant a DE program was totally separate from the rest of the institution, like a for-profit entity or with a separate faculty; while separate administration meant there was an office for distance education as part of the regular institution.  Many respondents indicated a mixture of administrative models by 2002 as compared to 1999.  See Table 10.  You can see that Regular Departmental Offerings and DE with Separate Operation have both increased in percent of responses by 11% in three years, while DE as part of Continuing Education has reduced by 50%.  The reduction within Continuing Education may be reflected in the increase in regular offerings and the separate operations, but this survey questionnaire data cannot explain this change.

Table 10. 2002 & 1999 Distance Education Administrative Models

DE Admin Model

 

2002 %

 

1999 %

Regular Departmental Offerings

 

87

 

76

Separate Administration of DE

 

37

 

33

DE Separate Operationally

 

32

 

21

DE Part of Continuing Education

 

21

 

42

Many delivery methods were used, as was true in 1999.  Table 11 lists each delivery method by year.  It should be noted that in 1999, the survey questionnaire only asked about the basic delivery method, while the 2002 survey questionnaire asked about combination of delivery methods, including listserv, chat, white board, and Web course management systems.

Table 11. 2002 & 1999 Distance Education Delivery Methods

DE Method

 

1999 %

2002 % Used in Conjunction with

     

Nothing

listserv

Chat

White Board

Web Course Mngt.

Internet

 

94.0

51.0

32.0

57.0

32.0

94.0

Satellite

 

33.0

  24.0

5.1

3.2

1.9

6.9

Videotape

 

64.0

41.0

9.3

8.3

3.7

24.0

Audiotape

 

22.0

15.0

2.3

1.4

0.5

6.9

CD ROM

 

34.0

23.0

7.4

7.4

2.8

22.0

PBS

Telecourse

 

NA

32.0

6.9

5.1

2.3

17.0

ITV/Video

 

81.0

54.0

12.5

9.3

9.3

24.0

Telecourse/

Videotape

 

64.0

43.0

8.3

6.5

2.3

25.0

Respondents were asked about use of DE course management software, which is found in Table 12.  In 1999, the most frequently used DE management software was direct programming in HTML, followed by WebCT™, FrontPage, and BlackBoard™.  In 2002, the most frequently used management software was BlackBoard™, followed by WebCT™, and HTML.  These findings represent the extensive changes in DE course management software availability and options that have developed in the last five years, including options that may be phasing out of use and a trend away from proprietary solutions

Table 12. 2002 & 1999 Distance Learning Course Management Tools

DE Tool

 

2002 %

 

1999 %

WebCT™

 

49.0

 

50.0

FirstClass™

 

4.0

 

8.0

TopClass™     

 

0.9

 

9.0

BlackBoard™ 

 

53.0

 

24.0

EmbaNet™

 

  1.0

 

2.0

Proprietary to institution

 

  6.0

 

18.0

FrontPage™

 

17.0

 

27.0

HTML

 

26.0

 

54.0

Other

 

19.0

 

26.0

The survey questionnaire specifically separated out questions about faculty compensation and incentives for developing a DE course from those about teaching a DE course.  These questions asked whether any of seven options taken from the literature were used at these institutions for faculty compensation or incentive for developing or teaching a DE course.  The information for each will be presented separately.

Compensation for developing a DE course.

Expenses paid for developing a DE course are presented in Table 13.  The most often paid expense in 1999 was the ISP costs at 39% of the respondents at that time, while the most often paid expense in 2002 was software purchased at 62%.  In both cases the option least often included was the expense of a graduate assistant closely followed by faculty release time and overload pay.  It is important to point out that in 1999 there was a response option of “Sometimes” for these expenses.  This option was eliminated in the 2002 survey questionnaire to get a better sense of which option was more likely to be the case rather than offer an equivocal option.

Table 13. 2002 & 1999 Expenses Paid for Developing a Distance Education Course

Compensated Expenses for Developing a DE Course

 

2002 %

 

1999 %

   

Often Used

 

Never Used

 

Often Used

 

Never Used

Faculty release time

 

18

 

33

 

21

 

23

Faculty overload pay

 

34

 

32

 

22

 

38

Computer equipment purchased

 

51

 

44

 

29

 

24

Software purchased

 

62

 

32

 

34

 

11

ISP costs covered

 

37

 

56

 

39

 

37

Costs of campus service units covered

 

43

 

0

 

27

 

25

Graduate Assistants

 

16

 

72

 

7

 

38

Another question asked specifically about special funds made available as compensation or incentive for developing a DE course.  Table 14 provides these responses.  Here the difference in responses in three years is substantial.  It is important to point out that in 1999 there was an option of “Sometimes” for these expenses.  This option was eliminated in the 2002 survey questionnaire to get a better sense of which option was more likely to be the case rather than offer a vague option.  Even so, there is a significant increase in respondents indicating that providing for faculty travel and national conference fees for developing a DE course is a viable option today, while it was a marginal option in 1999.  In 2002 sources for funding development of a DE course ranged from a central pool (46%), other sources (31%), course tuition (24%), and student technology or DE technology fees (18% each), all comparable to the percentages in 1999.

Table 14. 2002 & 1999 Special Funding Opportunities for Faculty for Developing a Distance Education Course

Special Funding for Developing a DE Course

 

2002 %

 

1999 %

   

Often Used

 

Never Used

 

Often Used

 

Never Used

Faculty travel

 

57

 

35

 

22

 

18

National Conference fees

 

52

 

38

 

13

 

18

No stipulation faculty

Discretionary account

 

14

 

73

 

5

 

66

Respondents were asked specifically about faculty overload pay for developing a DE course.  In 2002 the minimum overload pay range was $0 to $5,000, with an average minimum overload pay of over $1,620, while this range in 1999 was the same but the average minimum overload pay was $1,885.  This is a decrease of $265, or 14%, in three years.  In 2002 the maximum overload pay range was $800 to $7,500 with an average of $2,740, while this range in 1999 was $700 to $15,000, with an average maximum overload pay noted as $4,097.  Here the decrease in overload pay was $1,357, or a 33% decrease in overload pay in three years.  It must be noted that respondents also noted special arrangements for paying overload with hourly rates, by salary schedule, collective bargaining agreements and as work for hire, in addition to whether the institution was a two year, four year, public or private institution.  In each case, the amount of extra pay afforded to faculty who were developing a DE course has decreased in three years time according to these respondents.  These special agreements were the same as those reported in 1999.

Compensation for teaching a DE course.

One section of the survey questionnaire asked questions about support to faculty teaching a DE course.  Expenses paid for teaching a DE course are presented in Table 15.  The most often paid expense in 2002 was software purchases followed by computer equipment purchased; while the most often paid expense in 1999 was ISP costs, followed by costs for campus services, software purchased and faculty overload pay.  The least often paid expense in 2002 was graduate assistants, followed by ISP costs, faculty release time, and costs for campus services; while the least often paid expense in 1999 was graduate assistants, followed by ISP costs, faculty release time and faculty overload pay.  Not much has changed here in three years, other than you will notice that the percentage of respondents indicating support for graduate student support for teaching a DE course has increased since 1999 by 133%.

Table 15. 2002 & 1999 Expenses Paid for Teaching a Distance Education Course

Compensated Expenses for Developing a DE Course

 

2002 %

 

1999 %

   

Often Used

 

Never Used

 

Often Used

 

Never Used

Faculty release time

 

10

 

54

 

13

 

32

Faculty overload pay

 

28

 

36

 

26

 

31

Computer equipment purchased

 

45

 

43

 

22

 

24

Software purchased

 

53

 

33

 

26

 

11

ISP costs covered

 

33

 

54

 

33

 

38

Costs of campus service units covered

 

34

 

52

 

29

 

27

Graduate Assistants

 

14

 

68

 

6

 

39

Questions asked about special funding opportunities for faculty teaching a DE course.  These responses are listed in Table 16.  As noted above, in 1999 there was a response option of “Sometimes,” which was not available in 2002.  This difference may be the reason for the significant increase in support for faculty travel (an increase of 238%), payment of national conference fees (an increase of 380%), and a discretionary account (an increase of 140%).  In 2002 funding to support teaching DE courses was reported as coming from a central pool (41%), course tuition (25%), other sources (23%), student technology fees (14%), or a DE technology fund (13%), again similar to the profile from 1999.

Table 16. 2002 & 1999 Special Funding Opportunities for Faculty for Teaching a Distance Education Course

Special Funding for Teaching a DE Course

 

2002 %

 

1999 %

   

Often Used

 

Never Used

 

Often Used

 

Never Used

Faculty travel

 

54

 

30

 

16

 

22

National Conference fees

 

48

 

36

 

10

 

25

No stipulation faculty

Discretionary account

 

12

     

5

 

62

Again, specific questions about overload pay for teaching a DE course were asked.  For those who responded to these items, the minimum overload pay range for teaching a DE course in 2002 was from $100 to $3500, with an average minimum overload pay of $1590.  In 1999, these figures were from $0 to$5000 with an average minimum overload pay of $1876.  This is a reduction in three years of $286, a 15% reduction in overload pay.  The maximum overload pay ranged in 2002 from $774 to $9000 with an average of $2900, while in 1999 the range was $1200 to $8000 with an average of $3341.  Again there was a reduction in three years of $441, a 13% reduction in overload pay.  As with developing a course, overload pay in 2002 was often governed by policies or collective bargaining agreements, in addition to whether the institution was public or private, two year or four year, similar to the results from the 1999 survey questionnaire.

The last section of the survey questionnaire asked questions about student issues in DE, including minimum or maximum numbers of students to make the course go forward.  The minimum number of students for a DE course to run in 2002 ranged from 3 to 30 with an average of 11 students per course, while this number in 1999 ranged from 1 to 30 with an average of 10 students per course.  There was no significant change in three years.  The maximum number of students per course in 2002 ranged from 5 to 999, with an average of 57 students.  One respondent indicated 100 students as the maximum, and one indicated 999.  Excluding these extreme responses, the maximum DE enrollment ranges from 5 to 70 with a mean of 30 students per course.  In 1999 the maximum ranged from 12 to 900 with a mean of 47 students.  Again by excluding the extreme responses of over 100, the range was to 12 to 65 with an average of 26 students per course.  The increase in the average maximum number of students did not appear to be significant.

Discussion

More DE courses are being created and delivered each academic year and faculty compensation and incentives have changed in the last three years.  As noted at the beginning of this paper, full time faculty who teach DE courses often report that their DE course(s) are considered to be part of their regular workload (e.g., on par with traditional face-to-face courses), and first time DE faculty report spending significant amounts of time on their DE course compared to their traditional courses.  The results from this survey questionnaire present an interesting picture of how faculty are compensated or provided with incentives to teach or participate in a DE initiative or program.

More and more universities and colleges are purchasing or using DE course management systems, specifically BlackBoard™ and WebCT™, rather than using home-grown systems or creating courses in HTML.  These systems have improved significantly in the last three years to include many options that better support DE teaching and learning, indicating that these vendors are listening to the users of their products.

It is still interesting to note the differences in compensation and incentives offered for developing a DE course versus teaching a DE course as they have changed between 1999 and 2002.  From the results of this study, faculty are more likely to receive any of the expenses listed in Tables 5 and 7 for developing a DE course than for teaching a DE course, and faculty are more likely to receive special funding opportunities listed in tables 6 and 8 for developing a DE course than for teaching a DE course.  And if we look at the information provided on overload pay, faculty from these institutions are more likely to receive overload pay for developing a DE course (a minimum average of $1620, and a maximum average of $4097) than for teaching a DE course (a minimum average of $1590, or $30 less; and a maximum average of $3341, or $756 less).  And lastly, while the minimum number of student enrollments for a DE courses to run has not changed in three years, the maximum has risen from 26 to 30, or an increase of 15%.

What does this information tell us about how faculty are compensated or encouraged to participate in DE initiatives?  Basically, it tells us that over the three years between 1999 and 2002 developing DE courses was more highly valued than teaching DE courses.  This may be due to a number of factors.  Administrators may assume that the purchase of a DE course management system that provides easier-to-use tools for faculty use in teaching a course is indeed an incentive for teaching a DE course.  While this is not direct compensation, the tools available in newer versions of BlackBoard™ and WebCT™, per se, simplify posting information, communication options, among other amenities.  Since these are features that assist in teaching the course, the actual expensive component of a DE course could be in the development phases.  Therefore, the higher compensation for developing a course would be justified.

However, these concepts do not offset the fact that McKenzie, et al (2000) reported that first time DE faculty note spending more time on their online courses as the semester passes, or the fact that the NEA 2000 survey questionnaire, as reported by Bower (2001), indicated that faculty who teach DE indicated their DE courses are considered as part of their regular teaching load.  While we can argue that teaching any course becomes less challenging with each iteration, we should also consider the process of regular course revision for to take into consideration changes in literature, student needs, degree requirements, among other issues for keeping courses up to date.  But then, we could also argue that faculty are not typically compensated or given release time to develop a new traditional course, or compensated differently for teaching a traditional course.

So, how does this information inform practice in online DE administration?  As DE course offerings become more main stream in higher education, faculty will be more and more familiar with the DE course management systems.  One key ingredient was reported by Kambutu (2002), who reported from a national survey questionnaire of land-grant institution administrators that 81% of his respondents believed distance education to be very important to institutional survival.  As faculty explore the use of such tools as BlackBoard™ and WebCT™ to support their traditional teaching, they may also begin to explore how to exploit these systems to adapt their traditional courses for DE delivery modes.  Faculty will see an additional four students in a DE course as no more onerous than four additional students in a traditional course, depending on the subject matter and course requirements (for example, writing intensive courses).  As faculty become more familiar with the tools and practices of teaching through online course management systems, they will, no doubt, begin to accept teaching through these media as not much different than traditional teaching.  Of course, these comments relate only to full time faculty teaching online DE courses, and to the current pace of developing the tools for teaching online.  As future faculty (e.g., the current doctoral students who aspire to be university professors) learn to infuse these tools into their teaching and gain experience with DE options, faculty expectations for compensation and incentives for DE will change.

This research is limited in many ways.  First of all, the specific respondents in 2002 were not the same respondents from 1999.  In both instances, the respondents were volunteers with different views of DE course offerings.  Administrators have different understanding and knowledge of DE faculty compensation and support practices than faculty.  The data presented here is the aggregate data across all types of institutions, DE delivery modes, and length of time offering DE courses.  Each of these data variables could give a different picture than the overall one.  Readers should consider their specific institution in light of the information presented in this paper.  What works at one institution may not work at another, especially when comparing two year institutions to four year institutions, or research extensive institutions to liberal arts institutions.  In addition, institutions that have been involved in DE offerings for over ten years have established practices that have built up over time, while those offering for less than five years may be exploring how DE options fit into their institution’s mission.  Readers will need to be aware of where their institution fits into these different distinctions.  That will determine how closely the overall findings are applicable to their institution.


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Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume VII, Number I, Spring 2004
State University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center
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