The problem that this paper will focus on is the difficulties that a teacher new to teaching online encounters. The reviewed issue does not have an extensive history, primarily because online education emerged recently, with the advancement and widespread adoption of the Internet and associated technology. This factor highlights the central issue of the explored question, because teachers new to teaching online are unable to refer to specific guidelines or best practices that will help them develop a cohesive curriculum. The importance of this issue is evident since the demand for online education is increasing due to its accessibility and convenience, especially in the field of medicine, where online education can help address the shortage of professional staff.
Basic terminology that will be used throughout this paper is online education, which is a notion that explains the application of the Internet and technology such as laptops, smartphones, tablets, or other to access learning materials. Next, the term blended environment is a combination of online and offline education, used by Universities to merge online and offline education. This paper argues that teaching online is a new domain for educators, which requires a different way of presenting the materials, communicating with the students, and thinking about the education process in general.
Despite the fact that the concept of teaching online emerged recently, the demand for educators to provide online courses continuously increases. Wingo, Ivankova, and Moss (2017) state that faculty members in the examined universities in the United States report an increased number of inquiries asking them to teach online. This indicates an existing problem that teachers without experience in online education will also face. Wingo, Ivankova, and Moss (2017) cite the following issues as the main reasons for declining these offers – “fear of change, concerns about the reliability of technology, skepticism about student outcomes in online learning environments, workload issues, and other factors” (p. 15). Regardless, teaching online is becoming more popular, due to its benefits such as accessibility and enhanced time management, which is especially crucial for students who have to work as well.
In general, teaching online or using online instruments is a novel concept since the Internet and the variety of tools that allow people to access different information emerged recently. The perception of technology affects the attitudes that teachers have towards online education. In this regard, other essential terms that will be used in this paper to describe the framework of online education are explained below:
- Competency-based medical education (CBME), as defined by Touchie and ten Cate (2015), is the focus on competencies that need to be mastered by medical students.
- Transactional theories of distance education are focused on the exchange between students and teachers, more specifically on the communication that they have.
- Model for technology acceptance (TAM2) developed by Wingo, Ivankova, and Moss (2017) highlights the importance of user perception, in this case, the viewpoint of educators introduced to new technology.
Issues encountered by teachers new to teaching online range from a necessity to have an adequate level of computer skills to a need for establishing an educational paradigm, which guides them through the educational process. In order for educators to effectively integrate online teaching into their practice, they have to be prepared for using computer-based education practices and understand the specifics of online education.
According to Serdyukov (2015), “online learning creates a learning environment that, compared to traditional, classroom-based education, is less personal, more independent, often fragmented, rarely systemic, distributed in space and time, and dependent on the learner rather than on the teacher” (p. 64). This suggests a need for developing a different paradigm and ensuring that teachers have sufficient computer skills to apply online learning.
There are three major perspectives of online education that instructors have to address – learners’, educators, and content problems. Kebritchi, Lipschuetz, and Santiague (2017) state that “online education changes all components of teaching and learning in higher education” (p. 4). Hence, the expectation of learners enrolling in online classes differs, as well as their readiness to participate. Teachers have to manage their time differently and respond to the changing faculty roles with the introduction of online courses. Additionally, they have to adapt their teaching style to suit the new learning environment and transition from the usual face-to-face communication towards digital. These difficulties can be resolved by higher education institutions if they implement professional development courses for educators.
One of the issues that can obstruct teachers from employing online education is perceived problems with applying technology. In their research of faculty members’ attitudes towards teaching online, Wingo, Ivankova, and Moss (2017) highlight technology perception, user-friendliness of the interfaces, and the overall ease of using the technology as the main barriers cited by educators. Other problems can be caused by the fundamental technical skills and experience that an educator possesses.
These factors impact the perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use, two key elements that affect the likelihood of educators teaching online. Based on this review of teachers’ attitudes, one can argue that the main problem encountered by educators new to teaching online is the lack of past experience and perceived difficulties associated with the application of technology. Figure 1 demonstrates the TAM2 model and incorporates all elements affecting the teachers new to teaching online.
Teachers may experience difficulties managing communication with students and helping them succeed in their studies. Dockter (2016) argues that teachers new to online teaching may struggle with their self-identification and establishment of their persona. This can be resolved by employing varied communication resources that allow developing the teacher-student relationship. According to the transactional theory, the exchange between a student and a teacher, including knowledge, opinions, and competencies is essential, and it is the element that is difficult to address in online courses. Hence, teachers new to online education can struggle with communicating with their students and helping them learn, which can become a significant barrier for them.
Most educators have to undergo additional training to be able to teach online, which is often overlooked by educational institutions. Mozelius and Claes (2017) conducted a study to interview teachers working in blended environments, meaning that they provide offline education with extended modules online. The findings suggest that a lack of documentation describing the learning environment, its specifics, and ways of working with it is the main issue.
Additionally, teachers often cite a lack of support from educational institutions and online platforms as one of the major issues. This suggests that in case issues related to technology arise, these educators have to resolve them themselves. Additionally, Mozelius and Claes (2017) state that most respondents argue that they have not received sufficient training allowing them to teach online, nor are they currently enrolled in courses or workshops that would help them master online education specifics. Finally, lack of time to devote to resolving these issues is the main barrier that affects these educators (Mozelius & Claes, 2017).
Online education can resolve problems associated with the lack of qualified and skilled personnel within the field of medicine. However, the specifics of this domain imply difficulties for teachers in charge of online programs. Price, Whitlatch, Maier, Burdi, and Peacock (2016) focus explicitly on the online teaching barriers associated with nursing education because this is an essential field of education due to the anticipated shortage of qualified nurses across the globe.
The findings suggest that the main problems associated with this teaching method include a need to address the engagement of students. Gazza (2017) also explored nursing education, and the findings of this study suggest that rapid changes and ta need to account for many elements of online education are the main problems that affect teachers new to teaching online. Most importantly, both studies report a lack of clear guidelines and a need to develop a comprehensive guide that would help teachers having online classes in the field of medicine.
Another issue that teachers new to teaching online encounter are the change in how medical education is perceived, as well as what should be learned by students. Touchie and ten Cate (2015) argue that the current approach to developing curriculums in the domain of medical education pressures teachers. The main issues associated with the focus on CBME are the rapid changes in the material and the strategies for educating students. This is especially evident in the context of online education, and teachers may struggle with adapting to this fast pace. Arguably, the changes in the curriculum are a necessity due to changing norms and regulations, advancements of technology and scientific knowledge, and other factors.
Results and Conclusion
Based on the reviewed information, several implications for the nursing practice arise. Firstly, the articles suggest that despite the rapidly developing technology and the increased use of mass online education courses, teachers are not prepared to address the demand, especially in the field of medicine. The main difficulty that teachers new to teaching online usually encounter is the difference in audience interaction between online and offline education. This can be addressed by developing educational frameworks or adopting strategies suggested by Mozelius and Claes (2017) or Dockter (2016) to enhance the connection between an educator teaching online and the students. In addition, improving the technical skills of faculty members and ensuring that the technology they have to use for online education is not overly complicated is essential.
Overall, this paper highlights the fact that teaching online is new, and in many cases, an unfamiliar domain for most educators. As suggested by the literature review, teaching online requires teachers to participate in professional development courses and enhance their skills. The findings and results can be applied in practice by developing strategies for mitigating the barriers, such as teacher-student communication, the establishment of a teacher’s persona, and focus on developing essential skills of learners. Online education is a promising domain that will allow many people to gain access to knowledge. However, it is necessary to ensure that teachers new to teaching online establish appropriate skills and understanding of this education method.
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