The Move to Online Teaching: A Head of Department’s Perspective

  • Diane PrestonEmail author


Integrating online teaching strategies within universities is now well established, but there is little on how HE teachers experience this shift. One strand of literature suggests that university senior management teams often assume academic staff lack motivation to participate and resist change. This case study, from a Head of Department’s perspective, challenges that view. Focusing on academics who chose to move to the Open University, an online and distance learning provider, it argues that teaching online requires different skills and presents a fundamental challenge to teacher identity. It concludes that there is a need to both understand the academics’ perspective and acknowledge that there is motivation within the academic community; and support, at all institutional levels, is critical for academics making this transition.


Higher education Online teaching Teacher identity Multi media pedagogy University management Online teams 


  1. Allen, I.E., & Seaman, J. (2012) Conflicted: Faculty and online education, Insider Higher Ed. Babson Survey Group.Google Scholar
  2. Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. (2002). Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal of Management Studies, 39, 619–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angerkind, G. S. (2011). Separating the ‘teaching’ from the ‘academic’: Possible unintended consequences. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(2), 183–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barber, M., Donnelly, K., & Rizvi, S. (2013). An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead. London/England: Institute for Public Policy Research.Google Scholar
  5. Barnett, R. (2007). A will to learn: Being a student in an age of uncertainty: Being a student in an age of uncertainty. Maidenhead: SHRE and Open University Press, McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  6. Barry, J., Berg, E., & Chandler, J. (2006). Academic shape shifting: Gender, management, and identities in Sweden and England. Organization, 13(2), 275–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baxter, J-A. (2012). The impact of professional learning on the teaching identities of higher education lecturers. In European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 2012(2). Available online at
  8. Becher, T., & Trowler, P. R. (2001). Academic tribes and territories: Intellectual enquiry and the culture of disciplines (2nd ed.). Buckingham: The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Boxall, M. The UK’s outmoded universities must modernise or risk falling behind29/06/15 The Guardian newspaper, HE Network at Scholar
  10. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brooks, C. F. (2010). Toward ‘hybridised’ faculty development for the twenty-first century: Blending online communities of practice and face-to-face meetings in instructional and professional support programmes. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47(3), 261–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clarke, C. A., & Knights, D. (2015). Careering through academia: Securing identities or engaging ethical subjectivities? Human Relations, 68(2), 1865–1888.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clarke, C. A., Knights, D., & Jarvis, C. (2012). A labour of love? Academics in UK business schools. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 28(1), 5–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Conole, G., Oliver, M., Falconer, I., Littlejohn, A., & Harvey, J. (2007). Designing for learning. In G. Conole & M. Oliver (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives in e-learning research: Themes, methods and impact on practice. Oxford: Routledge Falmer.Google Scholar
  15. Currie, G. (2014) Hybrid managers in business schools, in Building the leadership capacity of UK Business Schools, Association of Business Schools, Winter 2014, p.12-14 ISBN 978-0-9567461-9-1Google Scholar
  16. Deem, R., Hillyard, S., & Reed, M. (2007). Knowledge, higher education, and the new managerialism : The changing management of UK universities. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Exworthy, M., & Halford, S. (1999). Professionals and managers in a changing public sector: Conflict, compromise and collaboration? In M. Exworthy & S. Halford (Eds.), Professionals and the new managerialism in the public sector. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Fanghanel, J. (2012). Being an academic. New York/London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Fineman, S. (1993). Organizations as emotional arenas. In S. Fineman (Ed.), Emotion in organizations (pp. 9-35). Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, IncGoogle Scholar
  20. Fineman, S. (2000). Emotion in organizations (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Floyd, A. (2013). Narrative of academics who become department heads in a UK university. In L. Gornall, C. Cook, L. Daunton, J. Salisbury, & B. Thomas (Eds.), Academic working lives: Experience, practice and change (pp. 86–93). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  22. Fredman, N., & Doughney, J. (2012). Academic dissatisfaction, managerial change and neo-liberalism. Higher Education, 64, 41–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goodyear, P. (2010). Teaching, technology and educational design: The architecture of productive learning environments. Strawberry Hills: Australian Learning and Teaching Council.Google Scholar
  24. Gregory, M. S., & Lodge, J. M. (2015). Academic workload: The silent barrier to the implementation of technology-enhanced learning strategies in higher education. Distance Education, 36(2), 210–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gregory, J., & Salmon, G. (2013). Professional development for online university teaching. Distance Education, 34(3), 256–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Grey, C. (1994). Career as a project of the self and labour process discipline. Sociology, 28, 479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gunn, C. (2010). Sustainability factors for e-learning initiatives. ALT-JResearch in Learning Technology, 18(2), 89–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hanson, J. (2009). Displaced but not replaced: The impact of e-learning on academic identities in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education., 14(1), 553–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Henkel, M. (2000). Academic identities and policy change in higher education. London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  30. Henkel, M. (2005). Academic identity and autonomy in a changing policy environment. Higher Education, 49, 155–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kirkwood, A., & Price, L. (2014). Technology-enhanced learning and teaching in higher education: What is ‘enhanced’ and how do we know? A critical literature review. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(1), 6–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Knights, D., & Clarke, C. A. (2014). It’s a bittersweet symphony, this life: Fragile academic selves and insecure identities at work. Organization Studies, 35(3), 335–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kolsaker, A. (2008). Academic professionalism in the managerialist era: A study of English universities. Studies in Higher Education, 33(5), 513–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kukulsa-Hulme, A. (2012). How should the higher education workforce adapt to advancements in technology for teaching and learning? Internet and Higher Education, 15, 247–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Luckman, T., & Berger, P. (1964). Social mobility and personal identity. Archives of the European Journal of Sociology, V, 331–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McNaughton, S. M., & Billot, J. (2016). Negotiating academic teacher identity shifts during higher education contextual change. Teaching in Higher Education, 21(6), 644–658.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Middlehurst, R. (2008). Not enough science or not enough learning? Exploring the gaps between leadership theory and practice. Higher Education Quarterly, 62(3), 19–321.Google Scholar
  38. Mitchell, L. D., Parlamis, J. D., & Claiborne, S. A. (2015). Overcoming faculty avoidance of online education: From resistance to support to active participation. Journal of Management Education, 39(3), 350–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Peach, H. G., & Bieber, J. P. (2015). Faculty and online education as a mechanism of power. Distance Education, 36(1), 26–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Porter et al. (2016). A qualitative analysis of institutional drivers and barriers to blended learning adoption in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 28, 17–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pritchard, C. and Wilmott, H. 1997. Just how managed is the McUniversity?, Organization Studies, 18 no 2:287-316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ross, J., Sinclair, C., Knox, J., Bayne, S., & Macleod, H. (2014). Teacher experiences and academic identity: The missing components of MOOC pedagogy. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1), 57–69.Google Scholar
  43. Salmon, G. (2000). E-moderating: The key to teaching and learning online. London: Kogan Page.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Salmon, G. (2005). Flying not flapping: A strategic framework for e-learning and pedagogical innovation in higher education institutions. Research in Learning Technology, 13(3), 201–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Salmon, G. (2014). Learning innovation: A framework for transformation. European Journal of Open Distance and E-Learning, 17(2), 220–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sappey, J., & Relf, S. (2010). Digital technology education and its impact on traditional academic roles and practice. Journal of university teaching and learning practice, 7(1), 3.Google Scholar
  47. Sarros, J. C., Gmelch, W. H., & Tanewski, G. A. (1997). The role of department head in Australian universities: Tasks and stresses. Higher Education Research and Development, 16(3), 283–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Schneckenberg, D. (2009). Understanding the real barriers to technology-enhanced innovation in higher education. Educational Research, 54(4), 411–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schneckenberg, D. (2010). Overcoming barriers for eLearning in universities—Portfolio models for eCompetence development of faculty. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(6), 979–991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sparkes, A. C. (2013). Qualitative research in sport, exercise and health in the era of neoliberalism, audit and new public management: Understanding the conditions for the (im)possibilities of a new paradigm dialogue. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 5, 440–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Symes, C. (1999). ‘Working for your future’: The rise of the vocationalised university. Australian Journal of Education, 43(3), 241–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Turkle, S. (1993). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the internet. New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  53. Tynan, B., Ryan, Y., & Lamont-Mills, A. (2015). Examining workload models in online and blended teaching. British Journal of Educational Technology, 16(1), 5–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of People and Organisation, Open University Business School, Faculty of Business and LawOpen UniversityMilton KeynesUK

Personalised recommendations