Face-to-face vs. Online learning: the impact on academic professional identity


The topic of Professional Identity (PI) has been extensively researched in the last two decades (Barbarà-Molinero et al., 2016). The focus of all this research has been to study the strength of identification within a specific profession.

In that sense, several professions have been analyzed: doctors (Pratt et al., 2006), nurses (Mazhindu et al., 2016) and faculty (Whitchurch and Gordon, 2010) among others. More specifically, research on faculty’s identity has concentrated on analyzing their individual identity, values and collective identity of faculty, their impact in governance structures, norms and processes and the development process of identity (Clarke et al., 2013). While most of this research has studied these topics in the context of face-to-face learning, there are few papers that have considered identity of faculty in an online learning environment.

In that sense, our objective is to compare the strength of faculty professional identity in both a face-to-face and online learning context. The differences between both learning environments, such as the student contact, the presence (or absence) of physical facilities and the way of interacting with other faculty members, can affect the strength of faculty’s identity. We will adopt the lenses of social identity approach (Turner, 1985) which will allow us to build identity differences in both contexts.

To achieve our research objective a questionnaire has been developed adapting Brown et al. (1986) definition of group identity. Respondents are faculty members from different social science disciplines. Data will be analyzed using structural equation modeling (SEM).

We expect to contribute to the field of faculty professional identification by studying identity in both the face-to-face and online learning environments. The identification of these differences will allow managers of universities to adopt the most suitable strategies in the development of their faculty to increase their satisfaction and motivation. 


Barbarà, A., Sancha, C., Samper, N. (2016). Face-to-face vs. Online learning: the impact on academic professional identity. Proceedings of the 9th International conference of education, research and innovation, 14-16 November, 2016, Seville, Spain.

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