Space planner, pacesetter, host, connector, and mirror. These are a few of the online instructor’s roles that strengthen instructor presence. As an online instructor, you may gravitate toward certain roles and then expand into others as you become more experienced in the online environment. Your role may change depending on the course and the level of your students’ proficiency.
Ultimately, the roles and responsibilities of the online instructor center on promoting community, interactivity, and student success in the online classroom. The article “Five roles I Play in Online Courses” from Innovate: Journal of Online Education details five vital roles such as Space Planner and Host. Although this article is from 2005, it still provides a great overview of the instructor’s roles in the online classroom that still hold true today.
In our courses, the instructor has several roles:
- Post Announcements: Post announcements in text, audio, and/or video format 3 – 5 times per week. Remind students how to subscribe so they get immediate updates by email.
- Offer Office Hours, Advising: Let students know how to contact you. Options include email, phone, instant messaging, web conferencing. Check student progress and follow up with students as needed.
- Facilitate Introductions, Icebreakers: In the introduction discussion, respond to every student. Have students complete their profiles and use the profiles in an activity.
- Provide Individual Feedback on Assignments: Leave feedback through Grades, on the assignment, through Quizzes, and/or by using rubrics.
- Provide Whole Class Feedback on Assignments: Use announcements, Discussions, feedback “pre-programmed” into quiz or exam questions.
- Promote Academic Honesty: the instructor monitors student submissions for academic honesty and builds motivation for students to do the work as instructed by telling them what they will get out of doing the assignments.
If you’re new to teaching in general or teaching online, reflect on your experiences as a student or learner. What did you value most from your instructors? What did you value most from the learning environment? How might those values translate to your own online teaching practice? What do you value working and communicating in online or asynchronous environments?
Tim Vaughan of the College of Business at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire discusses how he shifts his time when he teaches online.