“A small amount of anxiety as one enters a situation might improve one’s performance and even be evolutionarily advantageous” (Myers, 2007).
Anxiety around the move online is a normal part of the process. There are many considerations to be made and the transition itself can be lengthy and time-consuming. One of the most frequently voiced concerns from academics, in my experience, is a lack of confidence in their technical skills. Mathew (2012) describes this anxiety as a “healthy response” to “the emergence of a way of learner engagement that remains new to some educators”.
Mathew’s article, which can be found online here, gives the example of two commissioners of online programmes at the University of Bedfordshire. The two academics, from the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences, expressed feelings of anxiety and concern during the initial phases of the transition.
Among the reasons for this anxiety were the following:
- Mastering the technology
- The increased potential for students to cheat
- Issues around design, administration, and the decision-making process
- Entering an ever-changing, fast-paced industry
- The high standards and expectations of the learners around technology
- Handing control over to the learner
To address the very first point above, which is probably one of the most pertinent to this article – Ko and Rossen (2017) explain that “Techies don’t necessarily make the best online instructors. An interest in teaching should come first, technology second.”
They elaborate on the above point, by highlighting that “people-orientated people” make the best online instructors through their desire to “reach out to their students” and “bridge communication gaps”.
Academics who are moving online only really need a “basic familiarity with computers and the internet” (Ko and Rossen, 2017). This is because of the supports that are available in universities now, in Instructional Design and Technology Enhanced Learning departments, and due to a move away from softwares that rely on a great deal of manual programming.
The academics cited in the Mathew’s article above, were asked to reflect on their feelings at the end of the online project. Each of them felt that their anxieties and concerns had lessened due to the support that they received from Educational Developers at the university.
To curb the last two points from the list above, Mathew references the findings of Prensky (2001) in addressing that not all students are “Digital Natives” either. He points out that many students, particularly those from countries that may not have the same access to technological resources as we, share the same anxieties as their educators.
To remedy this, he recommends not to “try too hard” with the tools at your disposal; nor should you try to “use them all at once”. Student feedback is key here.
To finish, I’m going to point to Ko & Rossen’s description of the wider benefits to teaching online.
Their summation is twofold:
- Heightened awareness of your teaching
- New connections with the wider world
Teaching online gives academics the opportunity to reflect on their teaching as a whole, not just in an online context. It is a chance to review and track student engagement and make room for some creative changes. Recordings of your classes foster this opportunity for reflection and heightened awareness. Academics can also teach from anywhere in the world, and collaborate with other universities and staff (Ko & Rossen, 2017).
So, if the decision to move online is a topic of consideration for you at the moment, and you find yourself biting your nails or running for the door – just remember that the TEL monster looming ahead of you might not be as big, or as scary, as it sounds.
- Ko, S. and Rossen, S., 2017. Teaching online: A practical guide. Taylor & Francis.
- MATHEW, D., 2012. From fatigue to anxiety? Implications for educational design in a Web 2.0 world. Interactive Technology and Smart Education, 9(2), pp. 112-120.
- Myers, D.G. (2007), Psychology, 8th ed., Worth, New York, NY.
- Prensky, M. (2001), “Digital natives digital immigrants”, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 5.