Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Has the Internet Spawned a New Generation of Professors?

The Internet is rapidly changing the nature of professorship and offers a whole new academic lifestyle. With the growth in virtual education, and the slow but steady adoption of online coursework by "traditional" universities, the creation of a new type of professor becomes apparent. Virtual professors live in a world where multiple responsibilities are balanced by integrating technology into their lifestyles. The new age of technology has spawned a new type of professor.

To be a strong virtual professor requires high technology and high pedagogic knowledge of the subject matter (McAnally-Salas, Lavigne, & De Vega, 2010). Low technology skills and high pedagogic knowledge didn’t work well as professors couldn’t share or express their knowledge. Likewise, high technology and low pedagogic knowledge limited depth of explanation. Both technology and knowledge must blend together to create effectiveness. 

Online professors don’t have the same level of wiggle room than traditional professors and must navigate an environment that is more concise. As professor’s online knowledge increased it was found that they were more exact, shifted toward the Socratic Method, and created multilogues with students (Coppola, Hiltz, & Rotter, 2002). The very structure of online courses changed the core abilities and competencies of professors to be more finite.

Online professors are very good at task management as their work becomes integrated with their lifestyle. Some may be checking class postings on their cell phones while waiting at the grocery store and others could be sitting in a coffee shop spending an hour correcting papers. The life of an online professor affords more flexibility throughout the day but requires a higher level of self-motivation and commitment.

All of this integration between technology and life generally means a person could be working longer into the evening even though the intensity of that work may be less. With blurred home-work boundaries it may seem as though they are more likely to experience stress and burn out. According to a study of virtual academics online professors are less likely to get burned out than their traditional colleagues (McCann & Holt, 2009).

The nature of today's academic is changing with the times. Virtual professors will have more flexibility with their time as classes are 24/7 asynchronous but also must check into their classes on a regular basis. They will be conducting research at different times of the day and evening while still grading papers. The lifestyle of the new professor is one that requires a new way of looking at occupation and work. There is a blend of life and purpose other occupations may not offer and has spawned a whole new way of educating students. 

Coppola, N., Hiltz, S. & Rotter, N. (2002). Becoming a virtual professor: pedagogical roles and asynchronous learning networks. Journal of Management Information Systems, 18 (4). 

McAnally-Salas, L., Lavigne, G. & De Vega, C. (2010). Online course instructional design from the professors’ pedagogic knowledge and technology skills. Problems of Education in the 21st Centure, 19.

McCann, J. & Holt, R. (2009). An exploration of burnout among online university professors. Journal of Distance Education, 23 (3).

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