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Technical Brief: Faculty Perceptions of Teaching Online/Blended Learning Environments

Faculty Perceptions of Teaching in Online/Blended Learning Environments

Technical Brief # 02

Please cite as:

UDI Online Project. (2010). Faculty perceptions of teaching in online/blended learning environments (Technical Brief # 02). Storrs: University of Connecticut, Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability. http://www.udi.uconn.edu



This technical brief summarizes higher education instructors’ perceptions of teaching online/blended courses. The research reveals both benefits and challenges to teaching online/blended courses which should be factored into faculty planning when teaching these courses, into institutional decisions to offer online courses and recognition of the importance of supports for faculty who are teaching these, and into decisions related to course design.



  • Instructor’s Role as Dynamic

    There is a major shift in the role of the instructor in the online learning environment. This shift is due to changes in the cognitive, affective, and managerial tasks required when teaching in the online environment (Conceicao, 2006). In other words, the instructor’s role changes regarding how to present and organize information (cognitive), how to build relationships between and among students (affective), and how to structure assessments (managerial). The literature confirms that instructors can and should explore new teaching methods in the digital format to successfully complete those instructional tasks relating to a different teaching role (Conceicao, 2006). Novel strategies can reflect effective and engaging teaching activities, and since learning activities are online, they offer the benefits of being dynamic (see Technical Brief # 01, Online and Blended Instruction: Pedagogy and Evidence-Based Practices, for more information). The online instructor serves more as a facilitator, a person who creates opportunities for students to learn and to apply that learning, in comparison to a traditional face-to-face course instructor. Thus, students can become more independent learners (Daughtery & Funke, 1998).

  • Collaboration

    This role shift also allows the online instructor to foster more collaboration among students by having them work together to learn and to apply information, for example, a group project to design and research a discussion post on one side of an intellectual debate (Li & Akins, 2005).

  • Engagement and Assessment

    In the online environment, independence and collaboration demonstrated by students allow them to engage and critically analyze rich resources (Jamlan, 2004). Additionally, the online learning environment offers the opportunity to easily document and assess this learning (Gahungu, Dereshiwsky, & Moan, 2006; Jamlan, 2004). Alternative approaches to assessment make it easier to meet the academic needs and differing learning styles of students (Conceicao, 2006).

  • Technology Literacy

    Finally, according to the research, instructors and students are also able to gain new technology literacy skills in the digital environment (Conceicao, 2006; Georgina & Olson, 2008). Faculty reported that they experienced the reward of learning by doing; in other words, they found the task of creating activities that utilized the online platform effectively to be challenging and rewarding (Conceicao, 2006). An important finding in the research is that successful instructors are fluent in the technologies they implement including courseware (Georgina & Olson, 2008).



  • Time Requirements

    Faculty perceive that teaching online/blended courses is more labor and time intensive than teaching a traditional face-to-face course (APLU Report, 2009; Conceicao, 2006; Connolly, Jones, & Jones, 2007; Daughtery & Funke, 1998;). There are many reasons for this perception. First, teaching online courses requires more preparation in advance (Conceicao, 2006; Daughtery & Funke, 1998). It also requires more preparation in order to address different learning styles if the instruction is to be effective (Conceicao, 2006). Additionally, grading papers and discussion posts takes more time since this type of assessment occurs with greater regularity (Conceicao, 2006; Connolly et al., 2007). Finally, instead of having a set place and schedule for teaching, the time spent teaching online is more fragmented, thus appearing to take more time than teaching a traditional course (Conceicao, 2006).

  • Faculty – Student Relationship
    Another challenge to teaching online/blended courses is the difficulty in “emotionally engaging with students” (Conceicao, 2006; Gahungu et al., 2006). Cues such as voice tone and body language are not present to give feedback to the instructor contributing to a sense of being less connected to students.
  • Technology Support

    The final challenge to teaching in online/blended environments supported by the research is the lack of technological support for instructors from higher education institutions which can act as a barrier to effective online course implementation (Daughtery & Funke, 1998).

    Faculty should consider the benefits and challenges of teaching in the digital environment before deciding to teach an online course and when designing an online course. The benefits of teaching online are the ability to engage students with rich resources, to foster student collaboration, and to utilize new teaching strategies. Online course materials can engage students in powerful ways which can lead to higher level, critical thinking by students. However, it takes more time to develop these materials and implement online courses. This, along with the challenge to emotionally engage students, must be factored into the selection of course materials, development of course activities, and overall design of the online/blended course.


Works Cited

APLU report strong faculty engagement in online learning. (2009, August 31). A Public Voice: A-P-L-U's Online Newsletter. Retrieved from http://www.aplu.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=1347

Conceicao, S. C. O. (2006). Faculty lived experiences in the online environment. Adult Education Quarterly, 57(1), 26-45. doi: 10.1177/1059601106292247

Connolly, M., Jones, C., & Jones, N., (2007). New approaches, new vision: Capturing teacher experiences in a brave new online world. Open Learning, 22(1), 43-56. doi: 10.1080/02680510601100150

Daugherty, D., & Funke, B. L. (1998). University faculty and student perceptions of web-based instruction. The Journal of Distance Education, 13(1), 21-39. Retrieved from http://www.jofde.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/134

Gahungu, A., Dereshiwsky, M. I., & Moan, E. (2006). Finally I can be with my students 24/7, individually and in groups: A survey of faculty teaching online. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 5(2), 118-142. Retrieved from http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/pdf/5.2.1.pdf

Georgina, D. A., & Olson, M. R. (2007). Integration of technology in high education: A review of faculty self-perceptions. Internet and Higher Education, 11(1), 1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2007.11.002

Jamlan, M. (2004). Faculty opinions towards introducing e-learning at the University of Bahrain. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(2), 1-14. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/185/802

Li, Q., & Akins, M. (2004). Sixteen myths about online teaching and learning in higher education: Don’t believe everything you hear. TechTrends, 49(4), 51-60. doi: 10.1007/BF02824111


Other Suggested Readings

Faculty attitude, preparation: The implications for courses (2004). Distance Education Report, 8(19), 4-6.

Fillion, G., Limayem, M., LaFerriere, T., & Mantha, R. (2009). Integrating ICT into higher education: Investigating onsite and online professors’ points of view. International Journal on E-Learning, 8(1), 17-55.

Mcgee, P., & Diaz, V. (2007). Wikis and podcasts and blogs! Oh, my! What is a faculty member supposed to do? EDUCAUSE Review, 42(5), 28-41. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume42/W...

Passmore, D. L. (2000, May). Impediments to adoption of web-based course delivery among university faculty. Paper presented at EdTech2000, Sligo, Ireland. Retrieved from http://train.ed.psu.edu/documents/edtech/edt.pdf