12 signs of growing faculty stress during COVID

Three out of four faculty members reported significant stress while transitioning to new modes of teaching
By: | November 19, 2020
Two-thirds of college faculty surveyed about burnout during COVID fear a decline in the public's perceptions of the value of higher education. (GettyImages/CHUYN)Two-thirds of college faculty surveyed about burnout during COVID fear a decline in the public's perceptions of the value of higher education. (GettyImages/CHUYN)

Many faculty are feeling the stress of COVID’s disruptions and shifts to online learning but very few fear losing their jobs, a new survey on burnout in higher ed has found.

In the study of more than 570 full- and part-time faculty at two- and four-year colleges and universities, three out of four reported experiencing significant stress while transitioning to new modes of teaching.

And those anxieties have only grown since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the survey by Course Hero, an online course provider.

And while a majority of the respondents said they were not concerned that COVID would force their institutions or departments to close, 40% of faculty have considered leaving their positions in the last few months.


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Also, two-thirds of faculty fear a decline in the public’s perceptions of the value of higher education.

Nearly half are also worried about the growing economic divide between in-person students at and highly selective schools and those who attend online or part-time programs.

Among the potential impacts of COVID, Course Hero’s survey also found:

  • Signs of burnout: More than half of faculty reported a significant increase in emotional drain (53%) and work-related stress or frustration (52%)—both warning signs of burnout.
  • Looming closures and cuts: One in four faculty fear their institution or department will close. Nearly half expect long-term closures or mergers with other campuses, while 60% expect academic programs or courses of study will be cut.
  • Permanent new normal: 75% of faculty are concerned that changes in class size and teaching modality, or other shifts, will make it more difficult to provide high-quality instruction and form strong relationships with students.
  • Difficulty on the job: Nearly 90% of faculty agree or strongly agree that COVID has made their jobs more difficult.
  • Coping with a stressful environment: More than half of faculty reported feeling stressed by the decisions of their administrators (53%), personal matters such as child care or financial concerns (57%), or other world events such as the election or social unrest (65%).
  • Help from administration: Faculty said increased compensation (53%), modifications to teaching schedule or load (46%), support in using new technology (34%), and increased staff/teaching assistant support (26%) would improve job satisfaction.
  • Loss of campus community: Three-quarters of faculty report feeling less connected to colleagues and students.

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