Using Focus Groups to Study ALN Faculty Motivation
What are the most significant factors that motivate and inhibit faculty with regard to teaching in online environments? And what are the specific kinds of experiences that underlie and explain the importance of these factors? One goal of this study was to add to understanding of these issues, but the primary purpose of this study is determining how well these questions can be answered using the method of structured focus groups. This paper describes the methods and results of a pilot study conducted using four focus group interviews of faculty experienced in teaching using “Asynchronous Learning Networks” (ALN) at one university, and a single focus group at a second university in order to explore generalizability. For the university at which four group interviews were conducted, the rank orders of leading motivators and demotivators were quite consistent. Leading motivators include the flexibility allowed by being able to teach “anytime/anywhere;” better/more personal interaction and community building supported by the medium; the technical and creativity challenges offered by this mode of teaching; being able to reach more (and more diverse) students; and better course management. Major sources of dissatisfaction are more work, medium limitations, lack of adequate support and policies for teaching online, and the fact that the medium is not a good fit for some students. Very similar results were found through the replication focus group conducted at a different institution.