We have all been in learning situations where the teacher is someone enormously well known in his or her field of expertise – possibly even the best in the country or world! When you walk away wondering why you didn’t learn more while sitting at the feet of this acclaimed icon, you default to thinking it must be you. But if you think about it, just because someone is brilliant in their area of expertise, there’s no guarantee that they were taught or had experience on how to share this information with others. Certainly experience will help, but educators need to understand how to plan, implement, and evaluate pedagogically sound lectures and courses.
Even if a faculty member is an adequate educator in the face-to-face environment, there are further skills that must be gained to be an effective educator in distance education. Moore & Kearsley (2012, p. 129) list 12 functions of instructors in distance education:
· “Elaborating course content
· Supervising and moderating discussions
· Supervising individual and group projects
· Grading assignments and providing feedback on progress
· Keeping student records
· Helping students manage their study
· Motivating students
· Answering or referring administrative questions
· Answering or referring technical questions
· Answering or referring counseling questions
· Representing students with the administration
· Evaluating course effectiveness.”
Faculty Focus has published a special report titled “Faculty Development in Distance Education: Issues, Trends and Tips” (http://www.facultyfocus.com/free-reports/faculty-development-in-distance-education-issues-trends-and-tips/). Dr. Larry Ragan (pp. 4-5), Director of Faculty Development for the World Campus at Pennsylvania State University describes six categories that contain 50 online teaching competencies, as follows:
2. Building community
3. Classroom management
4. Faculty workload management
5. Teaching and learning
6. Technology aptitude”
Other articles in this special issue provide possible training opportunities for faculty members including joining an online faculty playground (Lorenzetti, pp. 9-10), observing successful online courses, completing training or certificate programs, working with a mentor, and learning useful software programs and technologies. Kelly (pp. 9-10) described a learner-centered emotionally engaging approach to online learning. Emotional engagement between the instructor and learners and among learners is critically important, fostering a sense of community. It can get awfully lonely out there in online-land!
Years ago I told a colleague I was staying late one night to attend his class on diabetes, which he was teaching in our nontraditional Doctor of Pharmacy program (pharmacists returning for the doctoral degree). “Why would you do that?” he exclaimed. “You teach diabetes yourself – you probably know more about it than I do!” he proclaimed a bit skittishly. “Because I learn something every time I watch you teach – not about the content, but how you do what you do” I responded. As with so many things in life, there’s the science, but there’s also the art. So it is with teaching, whether it’s face-to-face, blended or online. Online educators owe it to themselves and their learners to be proficient in their content area, but also to the art and science of online education to maximize the experience for the learner. Nobody likes a talking head, in person or pre-recorded. Passion in teaching is highly contagious – face-to-face, or online! Let’s get our learners all fired up – now THAT’S a learner-centric model!
Ragan, L. (n.d.). Defining competencies for online teaching success. In Faculty development in distance education: Issues, trends and tips (pp. 4-5). Madison: Magna Publications.
Kelly, R. (n.d.). A learner-centered, emotionally engaging approach to online learning. In Faculty development in distance education: Issues, trends and tips (pp. 9-10). Madison: Magna Publications.
Lorenzetti, J. P. (n.d.). Developing faculty competency in online pedagogy. In Faculty development in distance education: Issues, trends and tips (pp. 8-9). Madison: Magna Publications.
Moore, M., & Kearsley, G. (2012). Teaching and the roles of the instructor. In Distance education: A systems view of online learning (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.