Supporting a Virtual University


Within the College of Education (COE) at Ashford University, Associate Faculty are utilized to teach over 83% of education courses. This group is key to student success and retention. The challenge lies within the online adjunct (Associate) role where faculty can feel isolated, disconnected, and even burned out and not utilized for their strengths. Retention and engagement of online faculty is essential for the success of students. The Master of Arts in Education (MAED), within the College of Education, is the second largest program in the College. There are approximately one hundred online Associate Faculty members supported by five full-time faculty members. Specifically, 87% of the MAED courses are taught by remote Associate Faculty members. Therefore, developing a MAED Professional Learning Community may be useful for staff and student retention and success. Using survey data from this group, the researchers believe that creating a professional learning community within an online department with remote full time and Associate Faculty will help to build camaraderie and community, which will lead to improved faculty performance and, consequently, improved student performance. The researchers hope to identify methods that will build online learning communities and implement them, all to improve service and retention to students.


Higher Education, Online, Associate Faculty, Professional Learning Community, Virtual Support


Learning in Higher Education


Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


  • Kelly Olson Stewart
    • Program Chair for the Master of Arts in Education (MAED) & Assistant Professor, Education, Ashford University, United States United States
  • Dr. Alan Belcher
    • Alan Belcher has served as a faculty member and as an administrator, always providing students with an outstanding educational environment. In the most recent years, he has consulted with institutions to develop and implement assessment, faculty development programs, and the curriculum development process. Over the past several years, he has served registrar and then as vice president for student services, with oversight for admissions, financial aid, and student records. He has served as Associate Vice-President for Academic Affairs and the Director of graduate business programs while also serving as Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness. Alan is currently an Associate Professor of Education at Ashford University.