Virtual Instruction Support for Faculty

Laura A. McLaughlin, Joanne Ricevuto
Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology  •  Volume 18  •  2021  •  pp. 001-030
Aim/Purpose: This research study explores the challenges, successes, and supports de-sired in implementing virtual learning following a survey of faculty for their experiences and interests. Faculty in higher education need quick, practical tools and strategies to enhance teaching and learning in a virtual classroom.
Background The sudden and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had created an urgency to transition to a virtual learning environment, yet expectations for faculty to teach virtually may not have matched best practice and current research.

Methodology: This qualitative research begins with an anonymous, emailed survey of higher education faculty designed to explore participant thoughts and experiences related to their virtual teaching in Fall 2020. The survey included a series of demographic questions related to what type of faculty they were (full-time or adjunct), which discipline they taught, which format they were teaching in, as well as 5 open-ended questions to elicit feedback to teaching in this format of their challenges, some positives, strategies used, how they assessed learning, and which workshops they would like offered to better support them. A full year after the pandemic began, we sent out a follow-up survey to check in with faculty and find out specifically new skills/mindsets they developed, new tools they may have tried, their level of stress as well as how they perceived their students’ stress and their students’ level of learning. We decided to broaden our population by sharing the follow-up survey via social media to capture a diverse audience, which included international participants.

Contribution: Despite the different stress levels for most faculty and students during the pandemic of 2020-2021, our research highlights that it was also a time of growth and learning. Learning from past experiences can help us be pre-pared for future challenges related to virtual learning.

Findings: We found that the emergency remote teaching caused faculty to explore new ways of teaching and learning and helped them to develop a mindset that embraced a variety of skills such as flexibility, creativity, and innovation. We also learned that being aware of the stress levels of both faculty and students is of great value to institutions and with a good infrastructure and support, virtual learning can be successful.

Recommendations for Practitioners: Through our research, we have found faculty are lacking the tools necessary to engage their learners in a virtual setting. As such, best practices need to be shared and then embedded into the instructional approach. However, given the pandemic, faculty were forced to transition face to face classes to a virtual format without having been provided these best practices.

Recommendations for Researchers: We recommend researchers explore the habits of minds of faculty and how they have developed and continue to develop due to challenges they experienced related to virtual learning and continue to experience.

Impact on Society: Many of the skills that faculty developed due to this emergency shift to virtual teaching during 2020 and beyond are skills faculty will have for life. With support and ideas faculty can implement quickly, faculty will be better prepared to provide instruction and create settings that enhance teaching and learning in a virtual setting.

Future Research: Future research could include providing a voice for students by distributing a survey to the student body for their views and perceptions on virtual learning during the pandemic and moving forward.
virtual teaching and learning, flexibility, mindsets
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