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#IOLchat Report: Preparing Online Instructors

Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants have included students, instructors, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.

Preparing students for online learning is just part of the equation – online instructors require preparation as well. While the learning objectives of an online course may be the same as its campus-based counterpart, the ways in which communication takes place and content is presented can be very different. What kinds of support do online instructors need in order to efficiently and effectively teach their courses? Here's a summary of this week's discussion:

How are the skills and characteristics required of an online instructor similar to/different from those required of a face-to-face instructor?

  • Communication – clear, concise communication skills are key to success.
  • Presence – being able to bridge the distance and talk/type to students like they are right there with you.
  • Willing to learn – interest and initiative in getting prepared for the online environment before the beginning of the term.
  • Resourceful  – able to consider the student perspective in a course and help to anticipate and alleviate areas of confusion, such as changes in course platform navigation.

What are the expectations of online instructors – from students, administrators, course designers?

  • A social presence within the course – personality, availability, authenticity. Students don't want to feel like they are talking to themselves.
  • Timely communication with students, as well as meaningful feedback.
  • Include links to helpful resources for students within the course.
  • Flexibility in course delivery, i.e., some students may need to work ahead.
  • Flexibility in using technology, i.e., able to help troubleshoot problems and find work-arounds for the inevitable technology hiccups.

How can online faculty members be better supported in their work? (So that they can meet these expectations.)

  • Time is of the essence for instructors and students all juggling many responsibilities. Provide a central resource or support team for instructors to alert them to new information, changes in course platform, etc.
  • Offer in-house faculty development support, help desk access, workshops and tutorials.
  • Schools may consider creating, or integrating an existing, certification program for online instructors.
  • Instructors can connect with communities of other online instructors, both online and offline, to share experiences, suggest best practices, "or just kvetch."
  • Bring students and instructors together to talk about online learning – not to address specific courses necessarily, but to discuss method and encourage contributions from all. This kind of exchange may inform both groups.

What is your advice for an instructor teaching his or her first online course?

  • Be yourself. Students can read whether or not you are sincere and genuine. If you don't know something, say so. You are human and students understand this.

Thanks to @perpetualgogy@ODU_DL@NoodleEducation, and @pattimarathon for participating in the live event and to @ksetzekorn@profesortobaker and @Prof_Mulligan for the mentions and RTs! Help us to continue the discussion by adding your thoughts via the comments area on this page.

For more from the most recent live session, take a look at this week's transcript or view the chat feed below. Our past chats can be found on the archives page

Follow us @OC_org and plan to attend our next chat! We meet on Wednesdays from 12pm-1pm ET and look forward to hearing your perspective.

This week's read-aheads:

Understanding What's Needed for Online Teaching Success from Faculty Focus

What the Best Online Teachers Should Do from MERLOT's Journal of Online Learning and Teaching 

Online Instructor Performance Best Practices and Expectations from Penn State World Campus

Support for Online Faculty from Campus Technology

This week's chat feed:

February 1st, 2012 written by (learn more about our authors)

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