The Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration (ojdla) is a peer-reviewed journal which publishes articles from practitioners or researchers “with specific focus or implications for the management of distance education programs” (ojdla, 2009, Mission section). The need to recruit, train, and retain qualified online instructors is a concern for administrators of distance learning programs. This research article critique focuses on Bedford’s (2009) ojdla article which presented her research into a new trend she identified in online instruction: the emergence of the full-time professional adjunct.
Statement of the Problem and Research Questions
Bedford (2009) stated that the rapid increase in students taking online courses in the United States creates a corresponding need for additional qualified online instructors. Full-time faculty are unable to meet this need which has led to the hiring of more adjuncts. Bedford argued that adjuncts cannot be seen as a homogenous group because there are a number of adjunct categories. Bedford focused her research on “a small but growing number of individuals who do not hold full-time jobs but rely on multiple adjunct positions to fulfill their professional needs” (2009, Introduction section, para. 1). She called this group ‘professional’ adjuncts, and she highlighted that not much empirical research has focused on the idea of the professional adjunct as a career choice. Bedford felt that professional adjuncts are an important group for distance learning administration to investigate further, as they offer a potential solution for the challenge of providing quality online instruction.
The research questions are not explicitly stated, but instead are suggested. Bedford (2009) wanted “to begin to understand the motivations for pursuing adjunct faculty responsibilities as a full-time profession. As a secondary area of inquiry, I also sought to describe the characteristics that depict individuals engaged in adjunct teaching as a career” (Method section, para. 1). These two areas of inquiry position Bedford’s study as exploratory and descriptive research.
Bedford (2009) used her literature review to highlight studies focused on issues around adjuncts. The issues included the quality of adjuncts’ instruction versus full-time faculty’s instruction; adjuncts supposed focus on the demands of their non-instructional full-time jobs; and adjuncts’ perceptions of their status in higher education institutions. The literature review does include articles from opposing viewpoints, but the number of sources used to support Bedford’s position is limited, and there are some unsubstantiated claims that would benefit from being better grounded in the literature. For example, Bedford claimed that full-time faculty are unable to meet the growing demand for online instruction due to “workload or resistance” (2009, Introduction section, para. 1). However, this potentially contentious claim is not clearly...