In this week’s readings, we explored instructor’s roles in online learning. Liu, Bonk, Magjuka, Lee, and Su conducted a study using Berge’s instructor roles- pedagogical, managerial, social, and technical as a framework. Pedagogical instructor tasks include encouraging students to share knowledge with one another through interactive discussions and providing feedback. Social instructor tasks include developing a sense of group cohesiveness through frequent participation, feedback, and interaction. Managerial tasks involve managing online discussions, setting clear agendas, establishing deadlines and clear content. Finally, technical tasks include addressing technical software concerns, referring them to appropriate tech support resources, and allowing them time to get comfortable with a new tool (Liu et al., 2005, pgs. 30-32). All of these aspects of the teaching process play an important role. In an ideal world, an instructor would bring a balanced approach of all four to the virtual classroom. The authors write, “One aspect of the teaching process may serve dual purposes. For example, the organizational aspect of course design serves both pedagogical purposes (as a way to keep students engaged in the learning materials) and managerial purposes (as a way to present clear expectations)” (Liu, et al., 2005, pg. 42). The research concluded that instructors place a stronger emphasis on pedagogical practice when it comes to promoting student engagement and facilitating discussion.
In my module, I think I will play a more managerial-pedagogical role. I’m very structured and organized, so I already have clear instructions on online interactions. For instance, I will want the students to address specific questions when providing feedback on each others’ time management plans. I like to think of my online discussions following a structured guideline that I’ll create. Even in my in-class courses, I provide explicit student expectations as well as a list of expectations of what they should expect from me as their instructor. If they have a clear understanding of the course and what’s expected of them, I find they are more comfortable engaging in the material and with one another (it gives them a sense of direction and my millennials love direction!). My main goal of the course will be for them to walk away with the knowledge and skills necessary to successfully complete online/hybrid courses in college. Through the use of blogging, students can share with one another their 90 day challenge experiences as way to build positive interactive discussions. I want my students to focus on their developing their individual skillsets while building off of each other’s ideas. In this way, I’m very much focused on the pedagogical role (and some social aspects too). I don’t want students to feel they are alone when coping with new learning environments. If they feel part of a larger community who is going through a similar experience, the student will have a stronger sense of self-efficicacy or belief in themselves and want to remain at VCU.
In my module, I don’t think I’ll play the technical role as much primarily because I’m not bringing a lot of technical skills myself to the classroom. Terry Anderson describes an excellent online teacher as one who has strong content knowledge, motivates, understands the learning process, and has sufficient technical skill to “navigate and contribute effectively within the online learning context” (Anderson, pg. 360). I think I have the basic skills and will already be familiar with the online platforms I’ll assign, but I will not be diagnosing the technical problems myself. If a student is having technical problems, I’ll probably refer them to the VCU’s helpIT department who can provide accurate advice. I think what I can provide is enough time for students to become familiar with the technical tools, so he or she can troubleshoot any potential issues on the front end; thus, allowing for more time to focus on the content and interaction with one another.