“I'm in my damn garage”: The personal and professional effects of a sudden shift to online learning on faculty members



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The COVID-19 pandemic caused universities to quickly shift to online learning in March 2020. While there is much ongoing research on the effectiveness of online learning (particularly, sudden online learning) on students, there is little research on the effects on this shift on professors both professionally and personally. With the transition to online learning, faculty members had to quickly adapt their courses to meet the needs of the new modality of teaching. This switched posed particular challenges for faculty members who also had to cope with a loss of childcare and the possible need to supervise their own children’s shift to online learning. The theoretical frameworks of compound inequalities and intersectionality (Lorde 1980) were used to understand how race, class, gender, and parental status affected respondent outcomes. The current study aims to understand: i) How did institutional support provided to students impact the ability for faculty members to transition their courses online at a small and large institution? ii) How did respondents’ parental status impact self-reported stress levels? and iii) How did changing norms and experiences during the pandemic impact respondents’ self-reported stress levels? Repeated interviews were conducted at Time 1 (during the shift to online learning, in late March and early April 2020) and Time 2 (after the semester ended, in late May and early June) in order to learn about perspectives during the semester and afterwards. At Time 1, there were 27 participants. Eighteen participants chose to do a follow-up interview at Time 2, giving 45 total interviews and 18 matched pairs. In December, 2020, two counterfactual interviews were conducted to ensure that what the data was suggesting was accurate. Data analysis suggests that small and large institutions impacted the workload for professors in terms of service and/or instruction with the information that was supplied or the lack of information that professors received. differently. This can be seen in terms of an increase in service work at smaller institutions. Data analysis suggests that professors’ gender mattered in terms of childcare and household responsibilities. Data analysis also shows how faculty members developed social ties to stay sane, and that, with the return of the institution the disruption of these social ties impacted self-reported stress levels of faculty members.

Embargo status: Restricted until 06/2026. To request the author grant access, click on the PDF link to the left.



COVID-19, Higher Education, Faculty