Exploring the Experiences of Online Instructors Long-Term Instructor Study

About the study

Oregon State Ecampus partners with nearly 1,000 OSU faculty. We interviewed a sample of 105 of these instructors to explore their experiences and motivations for teaching online. Our first phase of this project included conducting three one-hour interviews with 33 instructors who have taught online at Oregon State for 10 years or more. The results revealed their professional development stories, teaching and course development practices, and attitudes and beliefs about online learning.

Phase One
Interviewed faculty who have taught online 10+ years

Study results

Learn more

Findings from the study: Advice for new online instructors

Utilize the online medium

Learn from others and take advantage of professional development

Make your presence known and communicate regularly

Build a connected online community

Consider and support your students

Believe in your ability to teach online

Be aware of the time and effort involved in teaching online

Focus on what you love about teaching

Download the complete advice for new online instructors
(PDF, 8MB)

Utilize the online medium

Online environments function differently than in-person environments. Think about how you could use the online medium to your advantage.

Learn from others and take advantage of professional development

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from other online instructors and online learning professionals, and take advantage of professional development opportunities.

Make your presence known and communicate regularly

Consider what methods of communication you wish to use (text, phone or video) as well as where communication could happen (inside the LMS, over Zoom or in person).

Consider and support your students

Online students often juggle multiple life responsibilities. Think about your course from the students’ perspective. How can you continually invite your students into your course?

Focus on what you love about teaching

Enjoy the experience of teaching online and focus on aspects of the work that you love. For example, you may love your content area, interacting with and mentoring students, and online pedagogy.

Believe in your ability to teach online

Most content can be taught online with some creativity. Even if you are unsure of how to teach something online, you will have better outcomes if you believe that it is possible.

Be aware of the time and effort involved in teaching online

Developing new online courses take a lot of upfront work. Once a course is developed, teaching online takes more time than you think. Many online instructors think that the time commitment is similar to in-person teaching.

Build a connected online community

Help students feel connected to you as an instructor as well as to other students. How you can interact with your students? How can you encourage your students to interact with each other?

Statistics from the study

Average years of teaching among interviewees
Minutes of
interview audio
Pages of interview transcripts

Wisdom from longtime instructors

“Sometimes students are seeing us on the other side of the screen as a blank slate for their fears and projections of their most scary professor figure. And I know that if we do not insert a warm and caring tone in our email consciously, it will not come through.”

“I just think time management is something that's really, really important. You could easily get sucked into checking in on your course and doing stuff 24 hours a day. That's just not healthy.”

“I think one skill is to be able to write succinctly and coherently. You're giving a lot of instructions…in writing, and if people are in different places and different times, [you] really need to have those written so that they're understandable.”

“I see online teaching as the antidote to urban and rural inequities… an antidote to ageism… an antidote to gender [inequity]… Single moms can now go to school and experience their social mobility… But there are some inequities. There is still an issue of financial access, but before [online learning], the financial burdens would be higher.”

This study was conducted by the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit director Dr. Mary Ellen Dello Stritto.

For press inquiries, please contact Tyler Hansen.