Inspired Teaching

Professionalism in an Online Teaching Environment

COVID-19 Teachers Collection

By Amanda Bell (@BellDramanda) and Deborah Wilkes-Whitehall (@DAWilkesW)
Originally Published, June 4, 2020

There has been a rapid shift from our usual practices to an environment of virtual care and virtual education, due to COVID-19.  As clinicians, many of us are still learning how to navigate and provide virtual care and now, as educators, how to navigate and provide virtual teaching.  There are similarities and difference with the in-person and virtual environment.  Being mindful of expectations and challenges can help in both realms. Most of the academic work done about online presence and professionalism is in the realm of social media.  There are many resources around evaluation of learners in online courses.  Our work as tutors and facilitators in an entirely online environment is, however, new ground.  Online presence is now the only means of contact we may have with our learners for the time being and we are faced with new and unique challenges. We need to be mindful that professionalism expectations are consistent in an in-person and virtual environment.

Here is an infographic that faculty (and learners) can use to consider how best to foster an engaged and professional online learning environment:

This is an infographic about online professionalism

While the face to face interaction with our students is often one of the most rewarding aspects of our teaching, we can use online teaching and learning as a way for us and our students to grow personally and professionally.  Faculty can find ways to continue to make teaching fun through their creative use of engagement strategies and use of online platforms to vary their interactions with students.  It is very possible to continue to provide students with guidance and feedback and to help them to grow as health professionals even in virtual settings.  This form of teaching and learning will prepare our students and us, as clinicians, for the reality of a world of increased virtual care and online communication. 

Dr. Amanda Bell (@BellDramanda) is a part time associate clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University and the Regional Assistant Dean of the Niagara Regional Campus of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University.  In balancing her administrative role and her clinical duties, she remains a passionate advocate for student and faculty support and well-being.

Dr. Deborah Wilkes-Whitehall (@DAWilkesW) is a part time assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neuroscience at McMaster University and the Co-Chair of Professional Competencies at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. She is a Family Physician and Physician Lead of the Niagara Eating Disorder Outpatient Program. She is an advocate for health care provider wellness and teaching humanities in medicine.