U.S. Faculty and Administrators’ Experiences and Approaches in the Early Weeks of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Nicole Johnson, George Veletsianos, Jeff Seaman



    The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound and rapid impact on higher education institutions across the world. In this study, we report the findings of a survey investigating the rapid transition to emergency remote teaching in the early weeks of the pandemic at public and private post-secondary institutions in the United States. Participants consisted of 897 faculty and administrators at 672 U.S. institutions. Findings reveal that with few exceptions nearly all reporting institutions transitioned to emergency teaching and learning approaches. Administrators reported that faculty with and without online teaching experience pivoted to online teaching, and nearly all administrators indicated that those who did not have online teaching experience were in the process of learning how to teach online. Regardless of whether faculty had previous experience teaching online or not, many faculty reported that they were using new teaching methods. A majority of faculty reported making changes to their assignments or exams as a result of transitioning to a new mode of delivery. Nearly half reported lowering the expected volume of work for students (including dropping assignments or exams) and/or shifting to a pass/fail model for this semester. The primary areas where faculty and administrators identified a need for assistance related to student support, greater access to online digital materials, and guidance for working from home. This study provides an early snapshot of efforts towards teaching and learning continuity at a large scale and provides some insights for future research and practice.


COVID-19, online learning, higher education

Full Text:



Ayebi-Arthur, K. (2017). E-learning, resilience and change in higher education: Helping a university cope after a natural disaster. e-learning and digital media, 14(5), 259-274.

Baker, V. L. (2020, March 25). How colleges can better help faculty during the pandemic. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2020/03/25/recommendations-how-colleges-can-better-support-their-faculty-during-covid-19

Bates, T. (2020, April 7). What should we be doing about online learning when social distancing ends? Online Learning and Distance Education Resources. https://www.tonybates.ca/2020/04/07/what-should-we-be-doing-about-online-learning-when-social-distancing-ends/

Beebe, M. (2010). E-learning in Afghanistan. https://www.academia.edu/download/6932601/linc_feb23_final.pdf

Burke, L. (2020, April 24). The big ‘if’. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/04/24/colleges-lay-groundwork-fall-or-without-pandemic

Czerniewicz, L., Trotter, H., & Haupt, G. (2019). Online teaching in response to student protests and campus shutdowns: Academics’ perspectives. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 16(43).

DePietro, A. (2020, April 30). Here’s a look at the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on colleges and universities in the U.S. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewdepietro/2020/04/30/impact-coronavirus-covid-19-colleges-universities/#723e4c3c61a6

Fain, P. (2020, April 29). The evolving fall picture. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/04/29/growing-number-colleges-announce-intent-reopen-fall

Govindarajan, V., & Srivastava, A. (2020, March 31). What the shift to virtual learning could mean for the future of higher ed. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/03/what-the-shift-to-virtual-learning-could-mean-for-the-future-of-higher-ed

Grajek, S. (2020, April, 3). Educause COVID-19 quickpoll results: Help for students. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2020/4/educause-covid-19-quickpoll-results-help-for-students

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (2020, March 27). The difference between emergency remote teaching and online learning. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning

Judy, B. (2020, March 23). Thoughtfulness in a pandemic. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2020/3/thoughtfulness-in-a-pandemic

Lorenzo, G. (2008). The Sloan semester. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(2), 5-40. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ837474.pdf

Morgan, T. (2020, March 10). Online teaching with the most basic of tools -- email. Explorations in the Ed Tech World. https://homonym.ca/published/online-teaching-with-the-most-basic-of-tools-email/

Reed, M. (2020, April 29). Looking ahead, faculty edition: How are people preparing for fall classes? Inside Higher Ed https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/looking-ahead-faculty-edition

Swartz, B.C., Gachago, D. & Belford, C. (2018). To care or not to care – reflections on the ethics of blended learning in times of disruption. South African Journal of Higher Education 32(6), 49‒64.

Tull, S., Dabner, N. & Ayebi-Arthur, K. (2017). Social media and e-learning in response to seismic events: Resilient practices. Journal of Open, Flexible, and Distance Learning, 21(1), 63-76.

UNESCO. (2020, March 19). Half of world’s student population not attending school: UNESCO launches global coalition to accelerate deployment of remote learning solutions.


Veletsianos, G. & Kimmons, R. (2020, April 6). What (some) students are saying about the switch to remote teaching and learning. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/blogs/2020/4/what-some-students-are-saying-about-the-switch-to-remote-teaching-and-learning

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v24i2.2285

Copyright (c) 2020 Nicole Johnson, George Veletsianos, Jeff Seaman

License URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/