What do teaching faculty really think about working from home and online education? Nearly 750 professors and lecturers at five universities (Twente, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Groningen and UvA) and two universities of applied sciences (Fontys and Utrecht) completed Newcom’s questionnaire.
The majority of those polled are still doing all their work from home. And most people think there’s an upside to that. “I’m going to try to keep working from home one or two days a week if my employer is amenable”, is a statement 63 percent can agree with.
The rest are split into two camps: 20 percent of teaching faculty “can’t stand” working from home and want to go back to the workplace as quickly as possible, while nearly the same number say the opposite: they want to “work at home as much as possible”.
Most expect that online teaching will not disappear completely when the coronavirus crisis has passed. In the opinion of 65 percent, digital education is also “a good complement to the face-to-face classroom and physical lectures”.
And yet a substantial number do not agree. Of the professors and lecturers surveyed, 28 percent support the statement: “Higher education has to return to the way it was before the coronavirus crisis”.
That opinions are sharply divided is also evident from the answers to open questions. Some are sick of working from home. “I don’t have the space at home for a desk and work at the dining room table, which is making my back trouble worse than it was”, one respondent reveals. There are also complaints about the low level of compensation for working at home and the lack of facilities: “The trouble it took for me to get a desk chair for my home beggars belief.”
The situation at home is also a big factor. In the words of one lecturer, “In the first few weeks of the crisis, an older colleague said with great satisfaction: ‘Now I can finally finish my book!’ And he did, while my partner and I were suddenly saddled with extra childcare duties for two pre-schoolers, extra teaching duties, plus extra cooking, dishwashing and laundry.”
Some teaching faculty are suspicious of the motivations administrators might have for choosing online education. “I suspect that they will try to use the coronavirus situation to ‘solve’ structural problems (such as the lack of office space, lecture halls and so forth).” Some people even distrust the questionnaire itself: “If this survey is just a disguised attempt to expand flexible working in higher education, then, please, spare me.”
Others don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and think digital possibilities are not a bad thing. “Online teaching is perhaps not ideal for everyone, but for some people it is. It would be great if, in the future, teaching faculty had more opportunity to make their own choices. And meetings and that kind of thing often work very well online.”