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What is the experience of expressing creativity for creative faculty teaching in the online environment? The literature regarding online learning covers topics relating to faculty and student satisfaction with distance learning, and faculty frustrations with the increased time required of online classes versus on-ground classes. Although the impact to creativity could be inferred in some cases, there is a void in studies focused specifically on understanding the experience of creative faculty expressing their creativity in the online environment. This study is intended to gain a deeper understanding of how teaching in the online environment affects the expression of faculty creativity for faculty who are otherwise recognized as creative.
A sample of 10 online faculty, nominated as creative by their colleagues, were interviewed multiple times, and reviews of their online class environments were conducted. The themes that emerged from the data were as follows:
1. Technology is an enabler (but has challenges).
2. Students are important.
3. Course organization is key to expressing creativity online.
4. Administrators, take note of issues important to creative online faculty.
As a phenomenological study, the goal of the research was to find the essence, or core, of participants’ experiences related to the phenomenon of expressing creativity while teaching online. The essence of the experience for these participants was that creative online instructors experience a freedom related to creativity expression, and practice purposeful creativity. The term purposeful creativity was coined by the researcher to indicate that these participants were not being creative only because they had the ability or inclination to do so. They were evaluating several factors (i.e., learning curve, technology need, cost, implementation time, student skill level) to determine the value of each creative action or element in their online classes.