What have you learned about the topic?
The 2011 Outlook for Online Learning and Distance Education finds that faculty resistance is the number one barrier to online learning and distance education. At first, this was surprising to me but as I read through the “Seven Systematic Barriers to Online and Distance Education” (Bates, 2011, p. 9) as outlined in the report, I could see why that is such a big issue.
Some of the other barriers to online and distance education include lack of training in online teaching for faculty, an inadequate understanding of the costs, and lack of ambition from institutions to use technology for teaching whole courses rather than just enhancing face to face courses. Based on these factors, it makes complete sense that faculty resistance is so prevalent in online learning. Moving from teaching face to face in a classroom to an online platform is a huge change. Big changes need to go hand in hand with lots of support and training and the sharing of information.
From the Digital Faculty: Professors, Teaching and Technology 2012 webinar, it was really interesting to hear that there seems to be a lot of assumptions being made when it comes to online learning and online instruction. One example of this is from their survey results where administrators felt that faculty are well supported and trained whereas faculty didn’t feel as well supported as the administrators thought. With this kind of disconnect between the institution and the faculty, resistance is unavoidable.
Bates (2011), speaks of the costs in relation to the tuition being charged however, I think that quite often, faculty time is taken for granted. With shifting to an online classroom, there is also a lot of learning to do on the part of the faculty and that takes time and effort. This should be better acknowledged by institutions.
What has been your experience with this topic? Why do you think resistance exists?
In my experiences with online learning from the teacher’s perspective, I have seen some faculty resistance but not as the main barrier to online learning. This is probably because I was mostly outside of the post-secondary field and more in ESL for immigrants. We were also not moving entirely to online learning but rather, created online classrooms to supplement the face to face and it was our students who requested the extra materials.
In terms of faculty resistance, the most resistance came from those who already struggled with technology to begin with. They did not feel supported and also did not feel like they had time for yet another thing to worry about on top of prepping, teaching, marking and all their other administrative duties.
I think a lot of the resistance and friction between teachers and administrators exists because of lack of communication, money, and time. Administrations should be as transparent as possible when trying to make such a big change. Teachers should be given a forum to voice their concerns and work together and support each other. Administrators should also respect and acknowledge the time and effort it takes to learn this new way of teaching. I think that collaboration and support are key to getting buy in from instructors.
What are your ‘aha’ moments related to this topic? What new insights do you now have? How was your thinking changed because of this reflection?
I have only moderated a few small online classes so when I think about online instruction for bigger classes, I do feel quite daunted by the amount of emailing and extra support hours that I assumed would come with an online class. However, some of the advice from the webinar included great ideas to tackle this. One practical insight that I’ve gained is to use an “ask the instructor” discussion forum to answer student questions. That way everyone can see all the other questions and can be directed to check the forum before posting their own question. There is even potential for students to answer each other’s questions. Clear guidelines and expectations regarding when to expect a reply to emails is also key in decreasing stress from the online instructor.
Faculty should take the opportunity to let go of some control and let students take more responsibility for their own learning. As long as the course is well organized, engaging, relevant, and useful to the students, they will step up and be more autonomous in their learning. Online learning has much more potential to being more student-centred than a face to face class.
Another ‘aha’ moment for me was that technology should not come first. When designing a course, the goals and outcomes are the first place to look. Technology should fit with that and not the other way around. This journal is about instructor resistance but on the flip side of that, I have worked with a lot of techie instructors and am sometimes one myself. We want to embrace technology and use it to make our lives easier and to enhance our students’ learning experience. The only thing about that is that it is easy to get excited about the latest tool but we need to remember that it may be a great innovation but it may not work that well with our course goals. It can also get quite overwhelming trying to keep track of all the latest advances. I think that it is important to realize that there is no pressure to constantly keep up with the latest tech tools and that the latest is not always the greatest for your classroom.
How can this new learning be applied in your online course?
I have learned that it is very important to start with the goals and outcomes when designing a course. This should dictate what technology is used, what activities are included, and what the course looks like.
Faculty resistance was the main idea of this journal but the reasons for resistance also apply to students. I want to keep my course well organized, transparent, respectful of my learners’ time and not make any assumptions when designing the course. For example, instructors have to learn new technology in order to use it to teach. Students also need to learn or at least get acquainted with whatever learning platform and/or tech tools are being used in their online classrooms. I think having a supportive and collaborative course with clear expectations will set both students and instructor up for success.
Bates, T. (2011) 2011 outlook for online learning and distance education. Contact North. Retrieved from: https://provost.ncsu.edu/governance/task-forces/distance-education/2011/documents/2011-outlook-for-online-learning-and-de.pdf
Inside Higher Ed. (2012, September 24). Faculty and Technology [webinar]. Retrieved from: https://www.insidehighered.com/audio/2012/09/25/digital-faculty-professors-teaching-and-technology-2012