Sharing Insights: Teachers' Problems and Accomplishments in their Online Day-to-Day Teaching

Sharing Insights: Teachers' Problems and Accomplishments in their Online Day-to-Day Teaching

Carmen Pérez-Fragoso (Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, México)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-942-7.ch013

Abstract

The case presents an analysis of the postings of a group of online teachers from a Mexican public university as they confront the challenges and rewards of their day-to-day teaching activities. They commented on their problems and accomplishments in a discussion forum during one semester. The problems included academic-administrative issues, difficulties of students in the appropriation of the platforms and the self-regulation of their learning, time management, negotiation and penalization of tasks delayed and other pedagogical concerns to the lack of institutional support. The findings suggest that the problems that online teachers face share specific characteristics and, according to the teachers, are mostly due to the pedagogical relationship being technologically mediated. Through the analysis, the author hopes to illustrate the complex technological, organizational and cultural issues that accompany online teaching and learning, and how the institution and the individual teachers dealt with them.
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Background

Online teaching and learning, especially in developing countries, creates the opportunity to reach more students who otherwise might not be able to access higher education. However, the requirements for successful online teaching and learning involve complex technological, organizational and cultural issues that are sometimes difficult to address. The case presented in this chapter deals with the day-to-day online activities of a group of teachers from a Mexican public university. The teachers discussed their daily experiences related to their online teaching during one semester, using a discussion forum. The analyses were carried out in three phases, following the institution’s academic calendar. The teachers were teaching in six different undergraduate programs, using three different platforms. The results suggested that the problems encountered by the teachers were surprisingly similar regardless of the discipline of the course being taught, and despite the wide range of disciplines: from engineering to sociology and they had common problems from phase to phase. The teachers discussed their concerns and accomplishments, evidencing a high level of commitment towards online learning throughout the semester. Unfortunately, even five years after the study period, institutional and administrative problems remain.

The Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC) is a Mexican state-wide public university founded in 1957 (Piñera, 2006). It is a multi-campus university that performs teaching and research activities at all levels (technical, bachelor, master and doctorate degrees), and it hosted 24,408 students working towards 65 degrees in 2004. At that time, the university had 976 full-time teachers, 97 half-time teachers and 2,917 lecturers according to the UABC Commission of Planning (UABC, 2003). The university is managed with a president appointed for a four-year term by a governing body.

The UABC has been recognized at the national level for its efforts in continually improving its services. The need for Mexican institutions of higher education to respond to the globalization pressures began in earnest in 1993 after the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed (Aboites, 1999). The federal government established norms to certify the quality of the higher education programs following recommendations posed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in relation to all higher education teaching personnel (UNESCO, 1997). Recently, the International Organization for Standardization in Mexico certified that the university was offering high quality managerial and academic laboratory services (ISO 9001: 2000, Gaceta UABC, 2007, p. 3). In addition, two national accreditation bodies have positively evaluated the study programs, including the ones that participated in this case (UABC, 2008, p.89): The Committee for the Accreditation of Higher Education (COPAES for its initials in Spanish, COPAES, 2009) and the Inter-institutional Committees for the Evaluation of Higher Education (CIEES, for its initials in Spanish, CIEES, 2005).

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