From Skeptical to Satisfied: Teaching Online as a Conversion Experience

From Skeptical to Satisfied: Teaching Online as a Conversion Experience

Synopsis: Description of my action research project to determine what causes faculty to "convert" from initial skepticism about online teaching to becoming an advocate of it.

At the 2005 Maryland Distance Learning Association (MDLA) conference, I was fascinated with a poster session by an instructor who described how she had converted from a skeptic about online teaching to an advocate. I decided to find out whether other faculty had had similar experiences and to see if I could figure out what caused such a conversion, the "differences which make the difference" -- what's the difference between a skeptical faculty member and a "converted," satisfied one? Is it possible to identify what causes such change, and if so, what are the factors? What is the significance of knowing this -- for example, is it possible to use this information to encourage other faculty to teach online? If so, how?

So I sent out a request on several listservs expressing an interest in interviewing faculty for whom teaching online is a "conversion experience" of sorts, that is:

- They had been initially skeptical to a significant degree about teaching online;
- Something had made them try it anyway, and they could identify what that something was;
- They were now quite satisfied with teaching online;
- They could explain what caused them to change their attitude about online teaching.

I received replies from about two dozen faculty, of which ten faculty provided substantive responses which I used to write the article. I did not find a "silver bullet" answer, but I believe that the article sheds some light on what attracts faculty to teach online.

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