Elearning and academic workloads: what is the role of professional development

Author: Haggerty, Carmel

Date: 2011-11-24

Publisher: Whitireia Community Polytechnic

Type: Conference item

Link to this item using this URL: https://www.digitalnz.org/records/21134878


Academic workloads are influenced by many variables, such as the preparedness of the academic, the institutional eLearning philosophy, institutional support processes and professional development available. Due to these complex variables it is difficult to measure academic workloads in isolation. However, one key variable -- professional development -- stands out as having the potential to make a substantive impact on academic workloads.

A research project exploring academic workloads in eLearning across four applied health degrees highlighted a disconnect between academics and the service groups supporting them. Discussion groups and individual interviews were undertaken with academic staff, their programme leaders, online learning support staff and senior management, providing an institutional overview of what is a complex issue.

Most academics within applied health degrees commence their educational career as specialists within their chosen profession, rather than as professional educators. Professional development related to teaching and learning is varied and in some cases nonexistent. This is no different in the case of academics working within the eLearning environment. Professional development is often focussed on the technological aspects of eLearning rather than its pedagogy, and is reported by academics as a barrier to implementation. With little preparation for their role as educators, is it any wonder that academics within the applied health sciences are often struggling with incorporating eLearning into their teaching? Key reasons reported by academics were:

• that eLearning increases their workloads, particularly during design and development,

• that the technology is complex and often unreliable, and

• that engaging with students online was too time-consuming.

One key recommendation from the research was that professional development that focuses on the pedagogy and practice of teaching and learning is critical in supporting academics to better understand and manage their own workloads within the eLearning context.

Subjects: e-learning, online learning, academic workloads, professional development

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