The Four Instructor Roles and Challenges Facing them in the Online-learning Environment KWasosky


Teaching and learning is decidedly different when comparing and contrasting a traditional classroom environment with that of online learning. Because of the lack of non-verbal cues and expression from other students enrolled in the same course and that of the professor, the emotion and emphasis on specific ideas must be relayed differently.

With regard to pedagogical instruction, the instructor must carry out or delegate several roles. The instructor must first of all design the course in the manner to best reach the learners. That task in itself, for a new instructor, can be very time-consuming and will most likely include a great deal of adjustment throughout the course until the instructor figures out what works best and what does not. I can see myself in this predicament, as I do it all of the time in a traditional classroom as well. (What works for some, doesn’t necessarily work for others)

The next role would be as an inspiration to the learners to excite them about what they are about to engage upon in the course and help them hold on to that interest throughout the entire course from beginning to end. A intriguing hook is a great way to reel them in, but online, I feel it may be more difficult to keep them on the line and looking for more without a lot of effort by the instructor. Since emotions are harder to convey to surge interest, the instructor must utilize other measures to keep them coming back for more. I’m not sure what this is when it comes to my module on perspective, but I will figure it out. I was just reminded while writing this that my students may not find the topic or information as engaging as I do. So, I will have to find a way to make it so.

As the feedback giver the instructor as to continuously offer comment and critique to the work created and submitted by the learners. This not only allows the instructor to guide the learner in the right direction, but it allows for the learners to understand that someone is monitoring and “right there” to assist should there be questions. I think that students love hearing your thoughts on their work. The more often you can give them feedback, the more they are interested in continuing on with a clearer direction for completing their tasks.

Lastly, as the interaction-facilitator, the instructor has to determine and inform the learners of what the discussion and feedback rules are from peer-to-peer. Clearly defined rules are important, especially with 7th graders. When teaching my students to peer-edit, we have a specific set of rules that cannot be broken. Those are: critique constructively and be specific in what needs to be changed and why. I feel those rules can also apply in an online learning course, but discussion which can be easily curbed in a traditional classroom, needs to be addressed carefully in an online environment. Informing the students that the instructor has access to all discussion among the students is a positive way to keep them on the right track. The instructor can also pose specific questions and thought provoking ideas to the student to address in their work as part of the facilitation process.

Within the above roles, online instructors can promote and oversee the student-content, student-student, and student-instructor interactions throughout the course.

The many challenges facing the instructors are in any online environment would be, to me, carrying out all aspects of the roles. As a new instructor, it seems overwhelming, but as time and experience passes, it may become more the norm and automatic for the instructor. In the later situation, the instructor can focus on the learners themselves and how to best reach them for each individual course. Tweaking of the different approaches to the individual students will always be addressed for obvious reasons.

I will play several roles listed above to some extent. I am the designer of the course and thus will guide the students through what my expectations are for them while completing the module.  I will facilitate the discussions to a point. I want to be a presence, but I don’t want to control all of the conversation. I wish to throw a possibility out there such as, “Discuss any group that may have no benefit from the railroad and decide if that is acceptable to those that do benefit?”

2 thoughts on “The Four Instructor Roles and Challenges Facing them in the Online-learning Environment KWasosky”

  1. I think your description of the roles you will play throughout your module is spot on. I actually didn’t think I focused enough on my role as an “inspirer” to encourage and inspire my students to dive into the content. While I always “try” to find resources and activities that excite and inspire, sometimes it is just plain hard or even impossible to do with the content I teach…after all, the American Bureaucracy is never but so exciting. I also think I sometimes lean on the fact that I teach upper level students and their motivation is often their grade and their ability to perform on the AP test in May, but I should not underestimate the need for me to take on this role and continue to try and inspire the desire to learn the subject matter.

    With that being said, when comparing our modules as this week’s “response” asked us to do, you and I will take somewhat different roles simply because of the age of students we teach. I will most likely have to intervene less in terms of help with technology simply because the audience of my module is most likely more advanced when it comes to utilizing the technology at hand. However, I can foresee in this module particularly, having to monitor discussion at a higher rate simply because of the topic at hand and the polarizing nature the discussions could take on. Depending on our student audience we as educators will take on each role at different levels and have to approach each role differently, however I think it is safe to say, as you pointed out, that we will take on each role at some point.

    Again, I continue to learn a lot from your blogs and gain perspective from your thoughts and look forward to see what you do with this module!

  2. I think your intriguing hook will be the discussion that allows students to voice their opinion. They tend to get very excited about any form of a competition. I think your topic would make an interesting debate – who can present the most evidence to prove their point of view.

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