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Faculty Development Center

Burnout and Online Instruction: Tips to Revive You and Your E-Classroom

Jody Oomen-Early has been teaching online since 2001 and offers some tips for those instructors who feel burned out. As she says, "Without the energy and active facilitation of a motivated and engaged online instructor, a virtual classroom can become nothing more than a hitching post of vague responses by tired students who just want to 'get it done' and log in just enough to get the assignments submitted."

1. Expand your horizons. Go to a conference (see below), read an e-learning journal (see below) or newsletter that can help you save time, manage your workload, reach out to your students more effectively, or give you some new ideas. Educause is one of the preeminent associations for higher education and technology. Find out about its annual conference by going to www.educause.edu. The Sloan-Consortium is the world's largest association devoted to teaching online. It has an Annual Conference (in the fall) that features keynote addresses, workshops, seminars, networking, and Second Life sessions. Find out more at: www.sloan-c.org.

Read up about online practices in the following journals:

  • International Journal of E-Learning (IJEL)
  • Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT)
  • Innovate
  • Amercan Journal of Distance Education (AJDE)
  • Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (JTATE)
  • The Internet and Higher Education
  • Journal of Interactive Learning Research
  • Journal of Research on Technology in Education (JRTE)
  • elearning-it blog (http://elearning-it.blogspot.com/)
  • The Online Educator

2. Use some Web 2.0 Tools

Blogging: try Blogger.com, WordPress.com, and/or Vox.com, and Blogspot.com

Audio/MP3 recorders: www.freedownloadscenter.com or http://audacity.sourceforge.net

Wikis: a type of website that allows user to present, exchange, and edit content online. Learn more by going to: http://pbwiki.com or www. wikispaces. com.

Document Sharing: try Google Docs for peer review and sharing of documents online (www.google.com).

Podcasts: there are thousands of free, downloadable, podcasts available to students. Visit www.itunes.com or www.podcastalley.com

3. Create an 'affective' environment

The affective domain is just as important as the cognitive domain. Think about adding some opinion-related questions, discussion topics, or field studies that allow students to open up and share their personal experiences. Create an atmosphere in which real dialogue—back and forth—can flourish. Try posting an audio message using a simple computer headset with a microphone or using the microphone on your computer.

4. Create a Collaborating Community

Create a network of colleagues who are also teaching hybrid or online. Attend workshops (http://www.umbc.edu/oit/hybrid/training/).

5. Include informal, nongraded assignments to stimulate discussion and increase learning comprehension.This not only reduces the amount of grading for the instructor, but allows the students to stay connected to the classroom and to see beyond grades to comprehensive learning. Self-quizzes, Web tutorials, online chats, wikis, digital storytelling (http://www.storycenter.org/index1.html; http://www.umbc.edu/oit/newmedia/studio/digitalstories/index.html), and blogs can be used for informal teaching.

6. Take a break. Back away from your monitor and do something else for awhile. Try to keep time with your family and for yourself. Establish some boundaries but keep your social presence. Post "office hours," times when you'll be available for consultation — and stick to those hours. Of course, you can make exceptions for emergencies, but remember to take care of yourself as well as your students.

7. Simplify, simplify, simplify! Thoreau had it right. Clarify your job responsibilities, learn to say 'no,' and determine how much of your expectations come from external responsibilities and how much are self-imposed.

8. Don't try to do everything at once. Concentrate on improving your teaching practices one step at a time. You don't have to jump at every new technology that comes along either. Let others be the beta testers. Talk to them, read reviews, then ease yourself into it if you feel it will measurably make your teaching online more effective and more interesting for your students.

Adapted from Jody Oomen-Early. "Burnout and Online Instruction: 10 Tips to Revive Your Classroom and Yourself, Parts 1 and 2," Online Cl@ssroom, December 2008 and January 2009. Magna Publications, Madison, WI.