Instructor Roles

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.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Instructor Roles

  1. Mary, thanks for sharing insight into your approach for facilitation! I also found myself identifying overlaps in and taking ownership of managerial and pedagogical roles for the module under development and think for your module that will be a very good approach. It sounds like you have a very nuanced understanding of your learner population, their concerns, and their preferences for learning. Your ownership of the course structure and your emphasis on providing clear expectations seems like a good fit for the developmental stage your learners are in. When you said that “if [learners] 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!)” I heard echoes of Vella’s call for structure to free up creativity in learning!

    I am curious to know if you will also engage more directly in developing a social presence with your learners. It sounds as though you will be encouraging them to do this with one another through their longitudinal learning blog, and I am wondering if you will be encouraging these posts via prompts and/or if you will spend time providing feedback or engaging in dialogue with learners about their perspectives as the course progresses.

    Your technical presence feels appropriate, both for the technologies you’ll be using and the way you plan to integrate that technology into their learning (as you have practical experience/skills and can effectively facilitate learning). Escalating student technical issues out to dedicated support will enable you to spend more time and effort facilitating learning and engaging with your students, while still ensuring that they receive assistance! 🙂

  2. Mary,

    It appears that your course will have the necessary structure and facilitation needed to be a successful learning environment for your students. What resounds with me in your statement about “…if they feel apart of a larger community …. the student will have a stronger sense of self-efficacy or belief in themselves and want to remain at VCU.” I think this is the most important factor to consider for any learning environment which fosters a greater sense of belonging for students. This is certainly vital with the areas of student retention and success which are topics I use in my online module for this course. I hope not to only incorporate this in learning environment for my participants but also stress the importance of using it beyond the classroom and into the plan to improve the climate of their institution. Thanks for sharing!

    -C. Oliver

  3. “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.”

    Hi Mary – I love how you addressed the need for time in your blog post. I feel like you have to give students enough time and space for cognitive processing of one activity, and that dividing their attention between differing types of cognitive processing only serves to reduce the overall comprehension of each due to a maximum amount of cognitive load available at any one given time, especially when forming new schemas – like when implementing new technology. When wearing my managerial hat in my module, I’m going to try to front-load the technical aspects as well, so that students can dedicate themselves to the content later. Nice post!

  4. Very thorough explanation of your lesson/s and approach. I came away from this wondering if relying on others for technical expertise is the ideal scenario. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the idea of being uncomfortable or feeling as though someone can do it better being a deterrent from extending energies on what ultimately prove to be a fruitless exercise in troubleshooting purgatory. That being said, as frustrating as that experience (who am I kidding, those experiences*) might be, it really does give you the ability to identify how those technologies and/or skills might or might not be applied in the future. In fact, I would reference your line “I think what I can provide is enough time for students to become familiar with the technical tools…” and ask, how do you know how much is enough time? Again, don’t take this as combative, this is just my reaction. As you referenced: “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.” but I think that could be amended to “an excellent online teacher is one who has strong content knowledge, motivates and understands the learning process and sees technical skill as an evolving process.

  5. “I will want the students to address specific questions when providing feedback on each others’ time management plans” – Do you have these specific questions yet?

  6. I used time management plan and 90 day action plan synonymously. The students will post their plan to their blog. I will pair them into blog buddies and require them to answer the following questions: (A) What did they like about their group member’s plan? (B) What could be improved? (C) Is their goal realistic, attainable, measurable, specific? (D) Is the action plan in line with the goal? (E)What constructive advice and/or recommendations could you provide for improving the quality of their plan?

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