Love, honor, and "light bulbs": investigating adjunct faculty identity and preparation for online teaching at a Southeastern research university
The increasing number of adjunct, part-time instructors in higher education continues to be discussed in the literature and trade publications. The increased adoption of online degree programs in higher education institutions across the United States has contributed to the enhanced need for flexible faculty employment options. This study provided a campus-wide look at adjunct employment and training at a research university framed by Gappa and Leslie’s (1993) study of the status of adjunct faculty in higher education and their recommendations for institutions to improve the status of these important academic workers. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore adjunct faculty employment and training, primarily for online teaching, at a research university in the southeastern United States. The researcher was also interested in how adjunct faculty members prepared themselves to teach and how they defined what it means to be an adjunct. Data were collected through interviews of site administrators and adjuncts along with the analysis of documents shared by study participants. The study found that the site provided multiple training options for online teaching. Some participants reported that their graduate programs provided training for teaching, while others reported learning to teach online in ways outside of those provided by the site or through the participants’ graduate programs. Participants often described their experiences as adjunct faculty members in terms of the connection to practice they were able to provide for students in the online learning environment. This study provided qualitative data to the discussion of adjuncts in the literature and provided a campus-wide portrait of adjunct employment and training practices at a research university.