A Delphi Study Assessing Effective Peer Faculty E-Mentoring to Support Scaling Distance Education Programs
Lewis, Judith Holbrook
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This research addressed a gap in the literature regarding the use of e-mentoring as a successful infrastructure mechanism to support educators in delivery of higher education and metrics for its use in scaling online education programs. The methodology applied to this research was a Delphi Study. The Delphi Technique is a qualitative methodology to build a consensus opinion from a panel of experts. This Delphi was based on a series of rounds in which a panel of experts responded to survey questions, each survey item presented as an essentiality statement ranked by a Likert-type scale index from Very Important down to Unimportant. Descriptive statistics were calculated for each survey statement to determine consensus. This study addressed five research questions in the areas of support for distance education faculty: what attributes of an e-mentoring program for faculty engaged in teaching distance education classes lead to perceived effectiveness by coaches and practitioners (terms introduced to describe the mentoring relationship between peers in a community of practice), what formal and informal activities or processes provide for preparation for teaching online, collegiality, and professional development (previously published operationalized factors) (Velez, 2010), and what metrics can be used to determine that e-mentoring has led to increased spread, depth, sustainability, and sense of ownership in distance education, previously published factors for scaling (Coburn, 2003). Based on the Delphi results, the highest consensus means concerned the importance of faculty and administrative support of distance education. For example, the study found high consensus that e-mentoring should be encouraged with release time, coaching should be considered in tenure and promotion decisions, and provision for communication allowances and technical support should be provided for e-mentoring sessions. Training topics of greatest interest included accessibility training, content delivery and teaching modalities, and copyright law and intellectual property expectations. Important metrics included the number of ?formerly coached? practitioners acting as e-mentoring coaches in the future, the number of semester-hours taught, the number of faculty initiating new practices, and faculty acceptance of delivering education online. This study is significant because it researched the use of e-mentoring as a support for faculty in scaling online learning programs in higher education and provided expert evaluation of processes and procedures recommended by faculty to support their effort. It also evaluated metrics to assess the scaling of distance education programs.