Main Article Content

Eileen Kennedy
Martin Oliver
Allison Littlejohn


This study examines the challenges experienced, and the pedagogy adopted, by university teachers as they transferred their teaching online during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thematic analysis of survey and interview data show that teachers engaged regularly in emotional support of students, and a pedagogy of care was discernible in the ways teachers described seeking out signals that the students’ needs were being met online. However, technology mediated communication made this more difficult in online teaching than face-to-face, increasing teachers’ emotional labour. Teachers’ efforts to achieve interaction with, and feedback from, students to inform their teaching approach, incurred a heavy burden of emotional labour that is insufficiently recognised or rewarded. This study has implications for the debate around the justification of equivalent fees for online teaching, since it reveals more emotional labour is involved. Universities risk burnout of experienced educators unless the emotional labour in online teaching is acknowledged and supported. Moreover, since emotional labour is often borne by the least privileged sections of the university workforce, this study uncovers uncomfortable questions about the persistence of systemic problems causing staff inequalities that cannot afford to be ignored.

Article Details

Articles - Special Issue


Amory, A. (2012). Instructivist ideology: education technology embracing the past? Interactive Learning Environments, 20(1), 41–55. doi: 10.1080/10494821003714707

Andersen, J. P., Nielsen, M. W., Simone, N. L., Lewiss, R. E., & Jagsi, R. (2020). COVID-19 medical papers have fewer women first authors than expected. ELife, 9, 1–7. doi: 10.7554/eLife.58807

Bagilhole, B. (1993). How to keep a good woman down: An investigation of the role of institutional factors in the process of discrimination against women academics. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 14(3), 261–274. doi: 10.1080/0142569930140303

Bates, T. (2001). National strategies for e-learning in post-secondary education and training. Paris, FR. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/iiep

BERA. (2018). Ethical guidelines for educational research. Fourth edition. Retrieved from https://www.bera.ac.uk/publication/ethical-guidelines-for-educational-research-2018

Biocca, F., Harms, C., & Burgoon, J. K. (2003). Toward a more robust theory and measure of social presence: review and suggested criteria. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 12(5), 456–480. doi: 10.1162/105474603322761270

Blaskó, Z., Papadimitriou, E., & Manca, A. R. (2020). How will the COVID-19 crisis affect existing gender divides in Europe? Publications Office of the European Union, 1–22. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/how-will-covid-19-crisis-affect-existing-gender-divides-europe

Blundell, R., Costa Dias, M., Joyce, R., & Xu, X. (2020). COVID‐19 and inequalities. Fiscal Studies, 41(2), 291–319. doi: 10.1111/1475-5890.12232

Bodenheimer, G., & Shuster, S. M. (2020). Emotional labour, teaching and burnout: Investigating complex relationships. Educational Research, 62(1), 63–76. doi: 10.1080/00131881.2019.1705868

Boler, M. (1999). Feeling power: Emotions and education (Vol. 28). Book. London, UK: Routledge. Retrieved from http://encore.unco.edu/iii/encore/record/C__Rb1476760?lang=eng

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2019). Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 11(4), 589–597. doi: 10.1080/2159676X.2019.1628806

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2020). One size fits all? What counts as quality practice in (reflexive) thematic analysis? Qualitative Research in Psychology, 00(00), 1–25. doi: 10.1080/14780887.2020.1769238

Cardozo, K. M. (2017). Academic labor: Who cares? Critical Sociology, 43(3), 405–428. doi: 10.1177/0896920516641733

Chubbuck, S. M., & Zembylas, M. (2008). The emotional ambivalence of socially just teaching: A case study of a novice urban schoolteacher. American Educational Research Journal, 45(2), 274–318. article. doi: 10.3102/0002831207311586

Chughtai, H., & Myers, M. D. (2017). Entering the field in qualitative field research: a rite of passage into a complex practice world. Information Systems Journal, 27(6), 795–817. doi: 10.1111/isj.12124

Copp, M. (1998). When emotion work is doomed to fail: Ideological and structural constraints on emotion management. Symbolic Interaction. doi: 10.1525/si.1998.21.3.299

Craig, L., & Churchill, B. (2020). Working and caring at home: Gender differences in the effects of Covid-19 on paid and unpaid labor in Australia. Feminist Economics, 1–17. doi: 10.1080/13545701.2020.1831039

Cui, R., Ding, H., & Zhu, F. (2020). Gender inequality in research productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic. ArXiv. doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3623492

Del Boca, D., Oggero, N., Profeta, P., & Rossi, M. (2020). Women’s and men’s work, housework and childcare, before and during COVID-19. Review of Economics of the Household, 18(4), 1001–1017. doi: 10.1007/s11150-020-09502-1

Gao, F., Zhang, T., & Franklin, T. (2013). Designing asynchronous online discussion environments: Recent progress and possible future directions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(3), 469–483. doi: 10.1111/J.1467-8535.2012.01330.X

Geertz, C. (1983). Local knowledge: Further essays in interpretive anthropology. American Ethnologist (Vol. 12). New York, NY, US. doi: 10.1525/ae.1985.12.3.02a00160

Gourlay, L. & Oliver, M. 2018. Student engagement in the digital university: Sociomaterial Assemblages. London, UK: Routledge.

Hall, R. (2021, June 26). UK students want tuition fees refunded as they face third year online. The Guardian, p. 2021. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/jun/26/uk-students-want-tuition-fees-refunded-as-they-face-third-year-online

Held, V. (2006). The ethics of care: Personal, political, and global. Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/0195180992.001.0001

Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling (3rd editio). Berkley, CA US: University of California Press. doi: 10.2307/2150891

Isenbarger, L., & Zembylas, M. (2006). The emotional labour of caring in teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(1), 120–134. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2005.07.002

Isenbarger, L., & Zembylas, M. (2006). The emotional labour of caring in teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 22(1), 120–134. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2005.07.002

Kennedy, E., Laurillard, D., Horan, B., & Charlton, P. (2015). Making meaningful decisions about time, workload and pedagogy in the digital age: The course resource appraisal model. Distance Education, 7919(January), 1–19. doi: 10.1080/01587919.2015.1055920

Koenig, R. J. (2011). A template for analyzing costs associated with educational delivery modes. Journal of International Education Research, 7(1), 5–14.

Laurillard, D. (2006). Modelling benefits-oriented costs for technology enhanced learning 1. Higher Education, 54, 21–39.

Laws, T. A., & Fiedler, B. A. (2012). Universities’ expectations of pastoral care: Trends, stressors, resource gaps and support needs for teaching staff. Nurse Education Today, 32(7), 796–802. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2012.04.024

Lipsitz, G. (2011). How Racism Takes Place. Philadelphia, PA, US: Temple University Press.

Littlejohn, A., & Kennedy, E. (2020). The challenges and opportunities of the rapid move to online university teaching in response to Covid19. In Academic Practice with Technology Conference. UCL. Retrieved from https://mediacentral.ucl.ac.uk/Player/4ACE1B2g

Mahajan, D., White, O., Madgavkar, A., & Krishnan, M. (2020, September 16). Don’t let the pandemic set back gender equality. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/09/dont-let-the-pandemic-set-back-gender-equality

Minello, A. (2020). The pandemic and the female academic. Nature. doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01135-9

Motta, S. C., & Bennett, A. (2018). Pedagogies of care, care-full epistemological practice and ‘other’ caring subjectivities in enabling education. Teaching in Higher Education, 23(5), 631–646. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2018.1465911

Myers, K. R., Tham, W. Y., Yin, Y., Cohodes, N., Thursby, J. G., Thursby, M. C., … Wang, D. (2020, September 1). Unequal effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientists. Nature Human Behaviour. Nature Research. doi: 10.1038/s41562-020-0921-y

Noddings, N. (1984). Feminine approach to ethics & moral education. Berkeley, CA, US: University of California Press.

Noddings, N. (1992). The challenge to care in schools: An alternative approach to education. New York, NY, US; London, UK: Teachers College Press.

Noddings, N. (1999). Caring. In Counterpoints (Vol. 70, pp. 42–55). Berna, CH: Peter Lang AG.

Noddings, N. (2012). The caring relation in teaching. Oxford Review of Education, 38(6), 771–781. doi: 10.1080/03054985.2012.745047

Parker, J., Maor, D., & Herrington, J. (2013). Authentic online learning: Aligning learner needs, pedagogy and technology. Issues in Educational Research, 23(2), 227–241.

Pimentel, E. (2020). COVID-19 could have a lasting, positive impact on workplace culture. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/covid-19-could-have-a-lasting-positive-impact-on-workplace-culture-143297

Rolón-Dow, R. (2005). Critical care: A color(full) analysis of care narratives in the schooling experiences of puerto rican girls. American Educational Research Journal, Spring, Vol. 42.

Tidman, Z. (2020, November 17). University students call for tuition fee refunds amid government ‘mistreatment’ during pandemic. The Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/coronavirus-university-tuition-fees-refund-b1724308.html

UCL. (2020). Zoom now available. Retrieved from https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2020/sep/zoom-now-available

Walker, C., & Gleaves, A. (2016). Constructing the caring higher education teacher: A theoretical framework. Teaching and Teacher Education, 54, 65–76. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2015.11.013

Weidlich, J., & Bastiaens, T. J. (2019). Designing sociable online learning environments and enhancing social presence: An affordance enrichment approach. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2019.103622

Williamson, G. (2021). Education Secretary speech at Universities UK Annual Conference. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/education-secretary-speech-at-universities-uk-annual-conference

Woodcock, J. (2018). Digital labour in the university: Understanding the transformations of academic work in the UK. TripleC, 16(1), 129–142. doi: 10.31269/vol16iss1pp129-142

Yoon, S. A., Miller, K., Richman, T., Wendel, D., Schoenfeld, I., Anderson, E., & Shim, J. (2020). Encouraging collaboration and building community in online asynchronous professional development: designing for social capital. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning,15(3), 351–371. doi: 10.1007/S11412-020-09326-2

Zembylas, M. (2014). Making sense of the complex entanglement between emotion and pedagogy: contributions of the affective turn. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 1–12. doi: 10.1007/s11422-014-9623-y

Zygmunt, E., Cipollone, K., Tancock, S., Clausen, J., Clark, P., & Mucherah, W. (2018). Loving out loud: Community mentors, teacher candidates, and transformational learning through a pedagogy of care and connection. Journal of Teacher Education, 69(2), 127–139. doi: 10.1177/0022487117751640