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.
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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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