Learning to Embrace a TFT by Remembering Your ABCs

Concurrent Session 2
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Preparing for and teaching online for the first time is hard, but these uncomfortable feelings will not last forever. Instructors can acknowledge this to be a terrible first time (TFT). This session will walk the audience through their ABCs to embrace this TFT in ways that lead to rewarding outcomes.


Sharon Stoerger (Ph.D.) is the Assistant Dean of Instructional Support and Assessment in the School of Communication and Information (SC&I) at Rutgers University. She possesses a Master’s in Business Administration (M.B.A.), a Master’s in Information Science, and a Ph.D. in Information Science with a focus on pedagogical practices, emerging technology, and social informatics. Her research and teaching interests include gender and computerization, instructional technologies, management in information organizations, and entrepreneurship. Before becoming Assistant Dean, Sharon was the Director of the Information Technology and Informatics (ITI) program at SC&I. She was also a co-founder of the Women in ITI student organization.

Extended Abstract


A large group of land-based instructors have had to transition their courses to the Internet quickly and with little to no advance preparation. Even with advanced notice and planning, teaching online for the first time can be an experience that causes anxiety for even the most seasoned instructors. These instructors are subject matter experts who are comfortable interacting with their students in a traditional classroom setting. Moving the course online takes the instructor into a new, unfamiliar, and untested environment. In some respects, it is as if the instructor is taking students on a study abroad trip where the learning placement is online rather than an international land-based location. 

There are many unknowns and being open to experimentation and risk-taking can be hampered by a fear of failure. Like students feeling stressed in a teaching situation, the fear these new instructors feel can poison this experience. Yet, it doesn’t have to be a negative one. In fact, recognizing this as a terrible first time (TFT) teaching online can be a useful way to help instructors transform this into a rewarding, yet different experience. 


Attendees will be invited to share the emotions they have encountered and overcome when teaching online. These experiences will lead us to the strategies that can serve as takeaways that can be put into practice immediately or shared with others who may be struggling with a TFT.

Selected resources will be shared with attendees in advance, and their feedback will inform the discussion. Polling, chat, and voice will be tools to encourage interaction during the presentation. 


This lightning talk will take attendees on a journey that will give them ways to recognize this as a TFT and learn tips for how to be bold as they continue down a new path toward a rewarding teaching and learning experience. These include remembering your ABCs:

  • A - Acknowledge your discomfort teaching online: We learn by pushing ourselves into new areas, and this can feel uncomfortable. This is normal, and instructors should not discount or dismiss these feelings. Instead, own them. 
  • B - Being different does not have to be bad: Teaching online is not going to be the same as teaching a land-based course, and it should not be. Feeling disappointed, anxious, frustrated, scared, and uncomfortable are not new feelings. Instructors have felt this way before, even when the experience seems to be going well. These feelings of being new to online teaching and being uncomfortable with the situation will pass.
  • C - Check your teaching expectations: New online instructors will feel vulnerable and there will be people who try to take advantage of that emotion. Basing the selection of teaching practices on facts, tested experience, and research is key. 

Further, teaching online requires a different mindset, course structure, pedagogy, and teaching approach. This will likely take more work, and you’ll say, “No, I can’t see the faces of my students as they walk into the classroom each session.” But, you and your students can create short introductory videos to create a community. Or, you might think, “No, I can’t have a face-to-face discussion with my students.” But, you can have a rich online discussion that encourages reflection, written communication, and good netiquette practices. 

Embracing a TFT and remembering your ABCs can help new online instructors face this new and imperfect experience with courage and learn how to take risks that enable them to make unique contributions to their courses - ones that only they can make.