How Online Instructors Can Avoid ‘Burnout’

EdSurge | November 17, 2017 - Rebecca Stout remembers the time she got a call from Saudi Arabia at midnight from one of her online students looking for help on an assignment.

It was just one example of how she—and many online instructors—feel like they must be always on call when they teach an online course. At the 2017 OLC Accelerate Conference in Orlando on Wednesday, Stout, the lead faculty for sociology within the general education program at Colorado Technical University, talked about burnout among online, adjunct instructors, and how to recognize it and prevent it.

Stout researches burnout and oversees around twenty adjuncts who teach online. She said she’s cognizant of how easily the online teaching environment can cause burnout, which the Mayo Clinic describes as a “special type of job stress—a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.” Stout said because online education has “grown exponentially,” so have the number of adjuncts charged with such classes.

“These online positions work remotely, it’s very appealing,” Stout said. “People think, ‘Oh, I can work in my pajamas any time of day, with my kid at my feet watching cartoons.’ Well, we know the reality: it’s very difficult to do that, and that’s not really what online teaching is.”