The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Transition to Distance Learning on University Faculty in the United States

  •  Melvina Brandau    
  •  Marjorie Vogt    
  •  Mary Lou Garey    


Background: The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic impacted not only students at institutions of higher learning, but also faculty who often made rapid transitions from face-to-face to online or distance learning. Distance learning has been shown to negatively impact college students’ physical activity, screen time, and mental health concerns. Little is known, however, about the transition and impact of the pandemic and distance learning on university faculty. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of the rapid transition from traditional face-to-face teaching methodologies to distance learning on professional quality of life, physical activity, screen time, and anxiety and depression among faculty. Methods: A descriptive survey design with snowball sampling, was used to collect data anonymously, online. An electronic survey was developed to explore professional quality of life, physical activity, screen time, anxiety, and depression. Results: The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent rapid transition of teaching and learning methodologies impacted not only students, but faculty at institutions of higher learning. Most faculty indicated concerns with their professional quality of life, putting them at moderate risk of burnout. A negative correlation between leisure time and anxiety or depression was found as well as a positive correlation between increased screen time and depression. Conclusion: Increased screen time and decreased physical activity or leisure time may contribute to increased faculty burnout, depression, and anxiety. University administration may need to consider strategies to help faculty cope with transitions to unfamiliar teaching methodologies and self-care behavioral changes to avoid faculty dissatisfaction and disengagement.

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