Can there be any dilemma to teaching in the digital age?

In light of Online participation and digital literacies

As teachers, we are expected to be self-determined, self-motivated and preserve the same energy to be able to keep students engaged and energized towards their learning phase. Engagement theory emphasizes that to keep students engaged, a well-designed course needs to be created. Having a physical and social presence makes this task easily possible.  

In the case of distance learning, teachers have to in most cases adapt new methods, content of delivery and different systems when employing distance learning. They have to

  1. Model effective participation and collaboration,
  2.  Give feedback,
  3. Troubleshoot and resolve both technical and interpersonal problem, and
  4.  Create an environment where learners feel safe, connected and where they see that their contributions are valued.

In addition, they have to ascertain that the students are engaged during this process. Sarah O’ Shea, Cathy Stone & Janine Delahunty (2015) suggest that teachers have to be able to

  • Present an engaging online tutor presence
  • Be available and accessible to students
  • Use a well-designed forum task
  • Create a course specifically designed for online learning to make online students as equally important as they do with the classroom students.

These expectations create more tensions before and during online interactions and engagements with students. This complexity with online teaching can potentially cause instructor burnout. A lot of instructors/teachers see online teaching as more work and more time-consuming activities when compared to the traditional teaching (Hislop & Ellis, 2004), which can also lead to a workplace stressor both for instructor and faculty (Hogan & McKnight, 2007).

 Given the online and the classroom dynamics is very different, teachers need to adapt to the situation. In doing so, several questions arise. For instance, do we need to use similar activities that work well in the classroom in the online room; how do we ensure that students feel safe and comfortable in the online setting; do we emphasize more on students’ expectations or emphersize more on motivations; encouragement and engagements. More specifically, should there be the same expectations for both online and in classroom learning? For a teacher who is struggling with teaching online and at the same time attempting to use online teaching tools for the first time, this can be very frustrating.

To prevent such frustrations, burnout, anxiety and tension with online teaching, good support and adequate recourses must be provided by faculty and the institution. In addition, teachers also have to develop certain skills in to be more digital affluential as well as set certain thresholds and parameters on the extent they need to adapt classroom teaching to the online setting.

Before the pandemic hit, I had little digital experience in terms of teaching online and using several teaching and learning tools. Just like a lot of my colleagues, I went through the seven cycles of acceptance. The anger / aggression and depression stage was when I decided that it didn’t work to adapt everything from the classroom into the online setting and reformatted my mode of teaching and began making use of more online tools during and after lectures. This was also coupled with the help and support received from colleagues and the department. Since changing my mode of teaching, I have had more fun teaching online


Hislop, G., & Ellis, H. (2004). A study of faculty effort in online teaching Internet and Higher Education,7(1), 15−32.

Hogan, R. L., & McKnight, M. A. (2007). Exploring burnout among university online instructors: An initial investigation. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(2), 117-124.

O’Shea, S., Stone, C., & Delahunty, J. (2015). “I ‘feel’like I am at university even though I am online.” Exploring how students narrate their engagement with higher education institutions in an online learning environment. Distance Education, 36(1), 41-58.

Teaching in a digital setting, a case of teacher’s wellbeing