Online Educator Burnout


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Online Faculty Burnout is a very real issue. This presentation explores the issue of online faculty burnout from the human perspective and examines some of the primary causal reasons behind the phenomenon. Learn the signs and symptoms of burnout, assess what triggers online faculty burnout and explore effective, meaningful pathways to amelioration. Burnout for educators is nothing new but online faculty burnout is only now being understood.

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Online Educator Burnout

  1. 1. Running On Empty: Exploring Online Educator Burnout
  2. 2. •Full-time faculty member with American Military University since 2002 •Instructs courses in Fitness and Wellness, including Stress Reduction •Licensed Mental Health Counselor •Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor •Doctor of Psychology: Northcentral University •Certificate in Executive Leadership: Cornell University John D. Moore, Ph.D. Professor of Health Sciences
  3. 3. Objectives of Workshop Part I: Online Education & Burnout • Overview of current trends in online education • Explore the definition & concept of burnout • The case for a unique specifier • Define Online Educator Burnout (OEB) • Assess unique causal factors of burnout unique to online educators • Examine the “Burnout Bubble” Part II: Burnout Prevention & Amelioration • Review the early warning signs of OEB • Analyze prevention approaches • Examine concrete approaches for amelioration • Create your own plan for wellness
  4. 4. PART I: Online Educators & Burnout 1 “The problem's plain to see … Too much technology … Machines to save our lives … Machines, de-humanize Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto” - Mr. Roboto - Styx
  5. 5. Current Trends in Online Education Some Interesting Facts to Think About . . . • 20% of all higher education students have taken at least one online course according to a 2008 study by Sloan Consortium Study. • 1/3 of all public university faculty had taught an online course according to a Association of Public Land Grant Universities 2009 published study. • 12,000,000 post secondary college students in the United States take some or all of their college classes online according to the research group, Ambient Insight. • 18,000,000 are expected to take online courses by the year 2014 according to the same research group.
  6. 6. More on trends ….
  7. 7. How does the enormous growth occurring in the world of online education impact course instructors? More Teaching More Grading More Time Online More Accountability More students More Interaction More Quality Checks
  8. 8. Points to keep in mind as we define burnout… Stress is normal and quite healthy. It keeps us focused, sharp, engaged, interested & breathing! Distress occurs when our normal ability to manage day-to-day stressors does not meet the level of stress we are experiencing. As a result of distress, we may experience changes in behavior or feel overwhelmed. Distress can be a sign of burnout
  9. 9. So What is Burnout? Burnout is a generic term used to describe a syndrome consisting of three symptoms that are related to work. 1. Emotional exhaustion 2. Depersonalization of others 3. Feelings of reduced personal accomplishment - C. Masclach (2003)
  10. 10. More on Burnout … • The first discussion of “burnout” and its symptomology is thought to have initially appeared in a 1974 article featured in the Journal of Social Issues by H. Freudenberger • The condition of “burnout” used to be exclusively tied to folks employed in the “helping professions” such as mental health counselors, teachers, police officers, nurses, etc. • Today, “burnout” has become so widely used and applied in the workplace that any worker who experiences symptoms can claim to be “burned out”. • The media commonly uses the term burnout to describe “stressed out workers”. Being stressed out is not the same as being “burned out”.
  11. 11. Basically… the generic term “Burnout” Has Become .. Burned Out
  12. 12. The Case for a Unique Specifier for Online Educator Burnout (OEB) OEB The significance of the problem Unique Burnout Causal Factors Related to Online Teaching Future Research Treatment Prevention
  13. 13. Definition of Online Educator Burnout Online educator burnout (OEB), also referred to as e-educator burnout, is a subcategory of burnout that is exclusive to persons who instruct or facilitate courses online and present with the three burnout dimensions as originally identified and described by Maslach and Jackson (1986). These three burnout dimensions include: 1) Emotional exhaustion, feelings of being emotionally overextended and exhausted by one’s work; 2) Depersonalization, an impersonal response towards students; and 3) Reduced sense of personal accomplishment, a loss of personal self-efficacy
  14. 14. What’s the difference between Online Educator Burnout & Regular “Teacher Burnout” when it comes to causal factors? Online Educators Must Possess Unique Competencies That Differ From Traditional Teaching Methods (Hogan & McKnight, 2007). • Specialized classroom delivery technology (LMS) knowledge • Ability to create and stimulate e-group discussions • Unique organizational skills used for online teaching • Ability to work asynchronously (class is 24/7) • Strong time management skills • Many if not most e-educators work from home The enhancement (and use) of above mentioned skills, coupled with ongoing e-classroom training necessarily means that the e-educator be online regularly – or feel they need to be online constantly. Researchers believe this unique dynamic may lead to burnout (Dunlap, 2005). Sources: Hogan, R. L.; McKnight, M. A. (2007). Exploring burnout among university online instructors: An initial investigation. Internet and Higher Education (10), 117-124. Dunlap, J. C. (2005). Workload reduction in online courses: Getting some shuteye. Performance Improvement, 44 (5), 18-26.
  15. 15. Unique Etiologic Factors That May Contribute to OEB • Online course instruction is isolative by nature • Asynchronous course delivery format • Possible role ambiguity for online faculty • Patho-physiologic reasons (i.e. hormones) • The role of computer screen light • Compassion fatigue (depending upon content of course) • Poor boundary setting with home and work responsibilities • Exacerbation of pre-existing medical/psychiatric issues
  16. 16. Moore’s Online Educator Bubble Moore also postulates the existence of a hypothetical burnout bubble (BB) for those involved with online education, in which various interpersonal forces act as inflationary agents, causing the bubble to expand over the course of time. These inflationary agents include: 1. Teaching responsibilities 2. Family/Personal responsibilities 3. Other responsibilities If neglected, the BB has the potential to over inflate and theoretically burst. It should be noted that this bubble applies to both the online educator and learner.
  17. 17. Moore’s OEB Bubble Teaching Responsibilities Personal/Family Responsibilities Other Responsibilities The more inflation of the bubble due to inflationary agents, the bigger the bubble becomes until it bursts.
  18. 18. 2 PART II: Burnout Prevention & Amelioration
  19. 19. Early Warning Signs of OEB Online educators who report feeling burned out report the following common symptoms: • Chronic fatigue – feeling constantly tired or exhausted • Anger at those making demands • Self-criticism for putting up with the demands • Cynicism, negativity, irritability • A sense of being besieged • Exploding easily at seemingly inconsequential things • Frequent headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances • Weight loss or gain • Sleeplessness and depression • Shortness of breath • Suspiciousness • Feelings of helplessness • Increased degree of risk taking * Many of these signs may be caused by a medical condition. Check with your physician
  20. 20. Prevention Strategies For Learning Institutions Kyricacou (as cited by Wood & McCarthy, 2004; Hogan & McKnight, 2007) suggests the following advice for learning institutions: • Consult with online faculty on matters directly impacting their learning environment; •Provide adequate resources to support online instructors; •Provide detailed job descriptions and faculty expectations to reduce role ambiguity; •Create and maintain clear lines of communication between online faculty and administrators by performance feedback; •Facilitate professional development activities; and, •Reduce teaching load and number of students per online course. Source: Kyriacou, C. (2001). Teacher stress: Directions for future research. Educational Review, 53, 28-35.
  21. 21. Prevention Strategies For Online Faculty Coombe (2008) suggests the following prevention strategies for online faculty: 1. Awareness of burnout symptoms; 2. Reaching out to others for support; 3. Consulting with other colleagues and building an circle of support; 4. Interacting with the learning institution and various administrators; 5. Avoid sweating the small stuff; 6. Take time each day to engage in something enjoyable; 7. Get involved in professional activities; and, 8. Remember the reasons for getting involved with teaching in the first place. Source: Coombe, C. (2008). Burnout ELT: Strategies for avoidance and prevention. TESOL Arabia perspectives , 15 (3), 11-13.
  22. 22. Amelioration Direct Action & Palliative Coping Skills (Lazarus, 1981); (Kyriacou, 2001): 1. Keep problems in perspective; 2. Avoid confrontations; 3. Relax after work; 4. Take action to deal with problems; 5. Keep feelings under control; 6. Devote more time to particular tasks; 7. Discuss problems and express feelings to others; 8. Have a healthy home life; 9. Plan ahead and prioritize; and, 10. Recognize one’s own limitations. Source: Moore, J. (2009) Online Educator Burnout.
  23. 23. Self-Care 1. Let go of guilt associated with not being constantly available to students right away; 2. Set clear office hours and obey them, blocking off time for specific work- related tasks at various points throughout the day (i.e., e-mail, grading); 3. Manage time more effectively and learn to communicate current workload with administrators; and, 4. Be proactive and manage student expectations (i.e., communications policy, check-in schedules and response turn-around times).
  24. 24. Other tips …. 1. Schedule regular meal times as well as outdoor time; 2. Balance work-related tasks with social breaks; 3. Make “work talk” off limits during non-office hours; 4. Think twice before making your cell number available; 5. Block off part of your day and say NO to everything
  25. 25. Summary What we know: • Online Educator Burnout is a real problem • Learning institutions should learn more about this issue • Online educators need to learn more about burnout
  26. 26. Connect with Others Click on Link to Connect with other Online Faculty and Students at: