Thursday, August 22, 2013

Avoiding Faculty Burnout in the Online Classroom

Teaching Online
Teaching Online (Photo credit: mikecogh)
by Brandy L Ross-Jenkins

Online faculty members have opportunity to work anytime and anywhere with a connection!

However, the online instructor job market is primarily adjunct driven, which means that at times you might find yourself working for a lot of different schools, and on many different deadlines.

Over time, the deadline rush and the overwhelming number of demands can lead to online faculty burnout. Before you get there, try a few techniques to help you better manage your workload.

Step Away from the Desk

You might be thinking that with your workload a day off is just not possible - but it is. The longer you work without a break the less productive you become. Taking care of yourself is the very first step in becoming more productive and feeling refreshed when it comes time to work.

On your day off be sure to disconnect completely. No phone, no emails, no checking into the classroom! Be proactive and let your students know what your day off is so that no one gets a case of missing instructor jitters.

Enjoy your time away and catch up with friends and family, and even your pets! Maybe even plan a day trip or catch up on your favorite shows.

Whatever you do, be sure you do something enjoyable and relaxing. When you return to work the next day, you will feel refreshed and much more eager to tackle the to-do list.

Don't Fall for False Urgency

College is an intimidating experience for many students, and perhaps even more so for online students who cannot see their instructors. They are dependent upon the ghost in the machine.

We are all acutely aware of this, and as such, we aren't just in our lecture halls a few hours a week, we are in our classrooms practically 24/7. But students don't know this. This is why many student emails convey a sense of urgency.

However, as an instructor and course leader it is important to use good judgment. Is it truly an emergency which cannot wait until you finish your current task if a student cannot locate a resource? Of course not!

None the less, when a faculty member allows themselves to be pulled in all different directions and is constantly responding to not-so-urgent "urgent" messages, it is exhausting and will lead to burnout very quickly.

To prevent this, set aside specific times each day and respond to all emails during this designated time period. For example, once during your morning coffee and then once more before logging off for the evening is sufficient.

Take Care of Yourself

The human body is capable of remarkable things, and unfortunately this also includes sitting at a desk for hours at a time. Not only is it unhealthy and uncomfortable, it is a drain of mental resources.

To keep up your energy, and your alertness and focus sharp, be sure to periodically take small breaks in between tasks. There is nothing like a few jumping jacks or a walk to the mailbox to break out of the trance from staring at a computer screen.

Be sure to drink plenty of water and snack on some fresh fruits and veggies while working. Not only will your waist line thank you, but you will feel better! Feeling good while you work is certainly key to staying refreshed.

Reward Yourself

Nothing is more daunting than a full submission inbox awaiting grading. Before you begin, decide upon a small reward for yourself for when you complete the task. Perhaps it is calling a friend, or allowing yourself some down time to enjoy a hobby.

When you begin to feel yourself becoming frustrated with too much grading, keep visualizing the end goal. Think of the sense of relief and accomplishment you will have once you have completed a substantial task.

By keeping your thoughts positive and focused on the reward/goal, you will overcome one of the greatest contributing factors to faculty burnout, that lurking feeling you will never be done!

You are Your Own Best Resource

Faculty burnout has a way of sneaking up on those of us who work online. Working a huge number of hours is not always the key to plowing through a workload.

By taking breaks, keeping active, and visualizing goals and rewards you can keep yourself motivated and sharp, bringing the best "you" to your classroom every day!

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