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Why Faculty 'Don't Or 'Won't Teach Online

By Taylor Jacqueline, Director of Distance Education and Online Learning, Tuskegee University

Taylor Jacqueline, Director of Distance Education and Online Learning, Tuskegee University

There are quite a few reasons why faculty 'don't or 'won't teach online.  It's not uncommon for faculty to be skeptical of teaching practices and settings they have not had experience with, and it is common for acceptance to develop as faculty gain more familiarity with the online environment. Your institution's level of faculty development, training, and support available for faculty who teach online can also have a direct impact on faculty preparedness and acceptance of online teaching and learning. Faculty resistance to teaching online can manifest itself in many ways. Faculty often state that they 'don't have time to prepare and develop course materials to teach online; they have other responsibilities teaching, advising, research, and publishing.  Finding time to invest in creating online courses is nearly impossible.  Some faculty are resistant to teaching online because:

1)  they do not have their course content available and accessible in digital format
2) some faculty are not comfortable using technology
3) some faculty are not interested in investing the sweat equity in learning new techniques. So 'what's an administrator to do to get 100% by in from all faculty?  


One of the most significant factors as to whether or not faculty teach online that is out of the control of the administration is if the faculty member has a personal interest in improving their teaching pedagogy.  Faculty members who want to teach online will teach online. Administrators should seek to encourage and support faculty who are interested in teaching online and support them with all resources available, including new computer equipment, software, tech support 24/7, and professional development.  Low cost or no cost methods of acknowledging faculty who embrace teaching online is to applaud their efforts through university newsletters, public announcements, a gift basket from administrators, perhaps a reserved parking space, even free coffee and tea once a week.  These early adopters who embrace incorporating technology into their teaching tool kit will eventually serve as cheerleaders to encourage and support other faculty to buy-in.  

"The employment of a multi-media digital content staff member whose sole purpose is to assist faculty in developing course content is a profitable investment"

Getting faculty buy-in can also take many forms including but not limited to release time,  financial compensation, or administrators may include the creation of online courses and teaching online as a part of a faculty members rank, promotion and or tenure package.
It is crucial for administrators to provide a variety of resources for faculty such as formal and informal training opportunities, webinars, in-person training, small group, or one-on-one training sessions.  The employment of a multi-media digital content staff member whose sole purpose is to assist faculty in developing course content is a profitable investment. Providing faculty with technology instruction and tools can make as much, or even more of an impact per dollar invested by a university in distance education. 

As Director of Distance Education, one of my jobs is to increase the number of faculty who teach online and to do this, you have to reach out and go beyond merely teaching faculty the technology.  I talk to faculty members one on one before they begin their attempts to teach online and ask them, why do you want to teach online?  What type of activities in your face to face classroom take place and how do you think you could translate those into online activities?  If faculty are not sure what to do, then my staff and I then show them “how” to adjust their face to face activities into engaging online student-centered activities.  Our distance education office offers weekly one-hour professional development workshops facilitated by faculty peer mentors and distance education staff, which helps to make faculty comfortable with using technology.  An unintended consequence is that camaraderie often develops, which helps to alleviate any fears faculty may have with regards to teaching online.   Faculty need support at the very beginning to know that someone is there to help them; they need to be able to pick up the phone and call someone to help them if they have a problem.  Our office of distance education's most significant accomplishment is to take that non-technical faculty member that wants to teach online but doesn't know how to get started and show them the way.  We hold their hand throughout the process until they are comfortable teaching in the virtual world, but yet they still see that they can reach out to us at any time if they need assistance.

It is also vital to reinforce to faculty that the technology is merely a tool to help them achieve desired learning outcomes, but student engagement is key to students ascertaining meaningful learning. There are many ways to engage with students in a profoundly collaborative and interactive level in the online environment.  For example, faculty members can use discussion boards to allow students to engage with each other beyond the time in the face-to-face classroom or have students do a report or presentation with YouTube, Instagram or Twitter then post for their peers to comment. Faculty should be open to exploring the best of both worlds by blending conventional classroom methodologies with digital modes of education. 

There are many creative and simple ideas you can use to persuade faculty members who are doubtful of teaching online is to encourage them to use Blackboard, Canvas or your LMS learning management system with their face-to-face classes. As your faculty learn to appreciate the advantages of maintaining student grades in electronic form with features such as automatic grade calculation which also keeps students informed of their current grades at all times, faculty may begin to understand the power of using LMS tools to cut down on their course-related administrative tasks.

Faculty who teach online must also have experience as online students before teaching online. By faculty participating in online training as a student before their first semester teaching online, they will have a better understanding of what it's like as an online student.  

For your organization to become successful in the online arena and achieve buy-in from faculty be prepared to offer incentives and support, clearly state them at the onset and planning stages of the implementation of your online degree programs and courses.  If you don't, you will inevitably waste time, energy, and resources if you are merely issuing edicts to your faculty to "just do it."  Although you might not achieve 100% participation from your faculty, you most certainly will improve your outcomes.

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