Six Barriers Causing Educators to Resist Teaching Online, and How Institutions Can Break Them

Article excerpt


In 2001, the South Dakota Alliance for Distance Education, partnered with the U.S. Department of Education's Star Schools Initiative, to host a 2-day workshop. This event, also known as the "conclave," allowed leading experts in the field of distance education, to discuss some of the barriers preventing online learning from gaining widespread prestige and acceptance from the academic community. One of the topics discussed at this workshop was the results gathered from an extensive evaluation process in which members of the conclave interviewed educators to assess their attitudes toward teaching online. Their findings reveal that educators feel significant apprehension about teaching in an online learning environment. This article will explore six of the major reasons educators resist teaching online, and propose solutions for overcoming each barrier.


It requires a major investment of time and energy for an instructor to create an engaging distance learning course, but for many faculty, moving a course from the traditional classroom into an electronic medium is considered part of the standard workload (Bower, 2001). However, translating a face-to-face class into an engaging online course requires pedagogical training that is inherently different from that of teachers who perform in a live classroom (Bower, 2001). Therefore, distance educators possess a unique set of knowledge, skills, and abilities that institutions should recognize by offering appropriate compensation, and providing low cost incentives such as awards and recognition. By valuing the role of online teachers, administrators will increase standards and performance in the field of distance education (Gold, 2001).


According to Bower (2001), distance education classes are more time consuming to prepare than traditional courses, while instructional and operational costs are generally lower, yet faculty still receive less. In addition, time spent in developing distance learning courses is time not spent on other professional activities, which may be needed to be successful in the tenure process. This issue is particularly important for faculty at research universities who face high expectations in research and publication (Bower, 2001). When faculty members make contributions toward distance learning initiatives, their efforts should help them earn tenure rather than interfere with their duties and be a source of stress. The field of distance education should support individuals interested in learning about technical innovation and online pedagogy. In doing so, administrators attract leaders to the field of distance education who can then share their knowledge and expertise. This degree of commitment and contribution should help educators achieve promotion and tenure rather than work against them.


One of the reasons for expanding distance learning, and the use of technology, is to increase productivity and student enrollment. However, to maintain a high-quality learning environment, distance education courses should have no more than 25 students per classroom (Goodyear, Salmon, Spector, Steeples, & Tickner, 2001). Research suggests that intimate classroom discussions increase critical thinking, reflection, and interaction among learners (Goodyear et al., 2001). If institutions abide by this principle, administrators will need to hire more distance educators to keep up with the growing demand for online courses. The question remains, how many courses should a single educator be expected to handle? As mentioned, the role of an online instructor is different from a traditional classroom teacher; additional responsibilities include but are not limited to content facilitator, technologist, designer, manager/administrator, process facilitator, adviser/counselor, assessor, and researcher (Goodyear et al., 2001). Staying abreast of the latest technology and applying educational strategies effectively in an online learning environment requires a tremendous amount of time and effort. …