Board of Regents discuss faculty resignation, online learning

Danielle Ferguson

Reasons for faculty resignations and quality of distance-learning online education courses were of main topic for the Board of Regents Education and Student Affairs Committee on the first day of the two-day February regents meeting.

The number of ISU faculty resignations in the past year increased from 21 in fiscal year 2013 to 35. Through the past 10 years, the average number of annual faculty resignations has been 36, so Provost Jonathan Wickert said it’s not a topic of concern for the university.

Since 2004, the university has collected faculty exit data by conducting interviews with faculty who are resigning as an opportunity to explain why he or she is leaving. The three main reasons for faculty resignation include dissatisfaction with department environment, lack of advancement opportunities and a dissatisfaction with pay.

“There’s really no single underlying theme [as to why faculty resign],” Wickert said. “There’s a personal story behind each one.”

Online education at Iowa State has continued to increase during the past four years, with the number of students taking courses only through distance education increasing by about 1,000 from 2011 to 2014. However, the number of students taking traditional classes mixed with distance education courses has increased more, with 5,302 in 2011 and 11,353 in 2014.

Ralph Napolitano, associate director in materials science and engineering, said distance education is a team effort among the technology department, students and faculty.

“Quality of student learning experience — that’s the focus, pure and simple,” Napolitano said. “Promoting high quality instruction through the appropriate use of technology and supporting faculty innovation. We want to enable faculty to be creative and innovative and support them in any way we can.”

A new master’s program in big data analytics through the ISU College of Business is one step closer to being on the course catalog after making it through the Education and Student Affairs Committee prior to meeting the open session with the full board Feb. 6.

The program deals with “big data” and provides training in business process analysis, predictive modeling, fraud detection, risk management and more.

“I’ve gotten … an enthusiastic perception from business people from across the state [because of] a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 workers with the skills in the big data area,” said David Spalding, dean of the College of Business.

The University of Iowa hopes to implement a similar program in communication with Iowa State. The two universities have reached an agreement to where a student can take nine credits from one program to be used in the other. For example, if an ISU student would like to take a health or medical-related data course on the University of Iowa campus, he or she could take that through the University of Iowa and have it count toward an ISU degree.

If the full board approves the program in open session, the program is planned to be implemented for students to enroll in fall 2015.

Today’s agenda includes:

Forker renovation

Iowa State is requesting permission to plan a 6,250 net square feet renovation on the ground floor of the Forker Building for the College of Human Sciences Department of Kinesiology.

A May 2012 university study found the Department of Kinesiology has grown 81 percent since 2007 and the growth has created a shortage of functional and office space.

The changes would add faculty offices, restrooms, replace the exterior window units and provide a fully automatic fire sprinkler system throughout the original 1940 portion of the building, according to the Board of Regents agenda item. The estimated project cost is $5 million and would be funded by university funds.

Annual faculty diversity report

The annual diversity report shows the diversity level of faculty at the universities. In fall 2013, about 30 percent of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty was female and about 21 percent was minority, which is similar to Iowa State’s peer universities.

President Steven Leath and the other regent institution leaders will provide a campus-wide report and the board will hear an efficiency study update.