Blog Assignment #1

I don’t remember what I wrote on my sheet, but here are two educational topics that interest me and some potential hypotheses.

1. HR and higher education
I have worked in some kind of an HR capacity for over ten years, and with my current job, I do a lot of reporting so I get to see how things like salaries affect faculty performance as well as student success. I have been reading the VCU Quest for Distinction for work and one of the tenents is “hire better faculty for less competitive pay” and that blew my mind. How does that work? It seems to be the opposite of what I’ve learned with my HR training. I think it would be interesting to research the kind of faculty one gets for less pay–why do they do it, where did they go to school, do they stay?  I would propose that paying faculty less would get younger, less experienced, non-tenured faculty members who use the institution as a training ground then leave for more pay. I could quantify things like retention %, pay and previous experience. I think the independent variables would be compensation and experience and the dependent variable would be retention percentage or even student achievement if I decide to do that.  I’m interested in quantifying DFW (drop/fail/withdrawal) rates for both this idea and the second one.

2. Online Education
The Summer Studies Office is under the Vice Provost for Instruction, who is also in charge of the new Online Instruction department, so this is a topic that is very close to me. I often provide reports for the Vice Provost in regards to online classes–how many, what departments, how fast did they fill up. .The President seems to really be pushing this model, mainly because it’s revenue-generating and classes can often be taught by adjuncts, who are paid less and don’t have benefits. I would like to examine the benefits of online education–does it contribute to student success? Are students engaged, do they retain the information? I am not sure which way this will go until I do a little more research about it, but my hypothesis would be something like “Online classes have a positive/negative effect on student engagement and success.” The independent variable is the type of instruction and the dependent variables are the amount of engagement and success that occur as a result.

I have not made the final decision on what I plan to write about. I think this will change with more research. I have never studied education before and this is my first graduate class, so I’m finding it difficult to come up with ideas and also understand the examples in our textbook. I am looking forward to doing more research–I’ve looked a bit on the VCU Library’s website.

—Melissa

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One thought on “Blog Assignment #1

  1. Melissa, you’re not giving yourself enough credit. As someone who deals with data (and questions about data) on a daily basis, you have a head start over the students whose primary experience is education. Research in education and the social sciences is not all that different from research in business/organizational leadership. Your first research problem is right on target. You’ve laid out the context, the goals, and the significance very nicely. You’ve also conceptualized it as a quantitative problem, which probably fits, but there’s a little room to come at it from a more general or qualitative angle if you were leaning toward a more open or exploratory question. As a side note, I think the statement “hire better faculty for less competitive pay” is an acknowledgement that the university does not have the funds it needs to recruit and retain the kind of faculty it desires. Having worked in the Provost’s Office for several years, I can say with certainty that the administration actually wants more money for faculty salaries, but they know they won’t get it from the state anytime soon.

    I like your second research problem a lot. There are many questions surrounding online education, and you are wise to wait until you’ve reviewed some of the literature before formulating a question. There’s room to approach it from either direction (qualitative or quantitative), and it’s not necessary to have a directional hypothesis.

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