Adjunct faculty who teach online have different kinds of challenges than those who teach in person. Many require additional training in technology and online teaching practices to be effective.

Dr. Abby McGuire, from the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), and Dr. Van L. Davis, from the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), shared the results of their recent survey to understand the practices that impact online adjunct faculty, equity, and access. The survey included a quantitative survey as well as follow-up detailed interviews. McGuire and Davis presented their findings at the recent REMOTE Summit hosted by Arizona State University.

McGuire and Davis conducted the survey in the summer of 2021 for the 2020-2021 academic year. The mix of two- and four-year institutions reported a 47% increase in online adjuncts; 43% reported they saw no increase, and just under 10% saw a decrease in online adjunct faculty during the year. The majority of adjuncts required at least online technical training (67%), academic student policy training (66.3%), and effective teaching methods training (53%).

The most effective practices by online adjuncts included:

  • Clearly designed, well-organized course
  • Established connections between the instructor and students
  • Provided timely feedback for student work
  • Made connections between the content and the world
  • Created student opportunities for active learning
  • Communicated via email in a timely manner
  • Being available and approachable for students

Some of the more challenging practices for online adjuncts included utilizing collaborative learning and creating connections between students. Online adjuncts also found it difficult to facilitate group discussions and create an inclusive environment.


  • Far and away the most effective strategy for supporting adjuncts teaching online is to provide 1:1 training/mentoring. One of the best ways to help adjuncts set up for student success is to do the same for the adjuncts by creating 1:1 or small group mentoring programs to provide continuous support. A program that offers a combination of regularly scheduled meetings, as-needed interaction, and feedback from experienced faculty provides robust opportunities for connection and development for online adjunct faculty.
  • Offer training options that extend beyond traditional business hours – offer training options that fit adjunct’s schedules. Offering asynchronous faculty training options on evenings and weekends can make it more likely adjuncts are available to attend.
  • Incentivize adjunct by compensating them for their time for professional development.
  • Gather data to understand the top faculty challenges and tailor training content to meet their needs.

According to this study, top challenges and topics for training include:

  • Collaborative learning
  • Creating connections between students
  • Facilitating group discussion
  • Active learning strategies
  • Creating an inclusive classroom
  • Culturally relevant teaching

Finally, acknowledge recognition for exemplary online adjunct faculty who use effective practices to connect students. Formal means of recognition include awards or the opportunity to be featured on the program’s website. Informal means of recognition might include a personal thank you email, message, or call. Because adjuncts are not usually full-time instructors, it may require some effort to make them feel like a member of the faculty. However, when online adjuncts feel a part of the instructional team, they can more easily create that community for their students.

For more articles from the REMOTE Summit, see: 

Essential Ways to Promote Student Success in Higher Education

Green Skills: Preparing Learners for the Green Economy

Urban Serving Universities are Disrupting Structures for 21st Century Skills

The Metaversity: Leveraging a Shared Learning Platform 

Faculty Needs to Be Drivers of Institutional Change

Lessons Learned: 8 Strategies for Effective Instruction 

Supporting Experimental Pedagogy with Social Animation Tools