The Vital Importance of Faculty Presence in an Online Learning Environment

The Vital Importance of Faculty Presence in an Online Learning Environment

Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch232
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The Paradigm Shift

An ever increasing number of colleges and universities are transferring courses from face-to-face (F2F) classroom meetings to online learning environments, as students seek out different sources for their educational experience (Welch & Napoleon, 2015). More than 6.7 million students reportedly took at least one online course during the fall semester of 2011, 570,000 more students enrolled themselves in distance education than those in the previous year (Welch & Napoleon, 2015). Recently, more than 60% of administrators primarily in charge of academics at more than 2,800 colleges and universities in the United States made clear that shifting courses from F2F meetings to online was critical to their long-term strategies (Allen & Seaman, 2013).

With the ever expanding online education and given that online instruction differs distinctively from the traditional F2F instruction (Roman, Kelsey, & Lin, 2010), roles that an online instructor play in a virtual learning environment deserve a great deal of attention, as they underline the necessity of teacher presence in an online learning environment.

Hernández et al.’s (2010) study focused on the roles an instructor played in both e- and traditional learning environments. The researchers performed a comparative analysis of students’ perceptions with 33 participants involved in a F2F traditional teaching while 23 students engaged in an online environment. Both of the groups taught by the same instructor. Hernández et al found students’ perceptions varied regarding the roles that the instructor played in the F2F and online contexts. Generally, F2F group valued the instructor’s role in the learning process more highly than the online group. The findings suggest online instructors ought to make additional efforts to better student learning.

reported that students of distance education classes performed poorly and some even were not able to complete online courses. Furthermore, there seems to have higher dropout rates within online courses than F2F settings, which might be due to a lack of support from instructor and peers and which might be due to students feeling emotionally isolated (Artino & Jones, 2012; Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012). The reported findings offer a strong indication that online instructors need to meet the needs of students (Orso & Doolittle, 2012; Welch, Napoleon, Hill, & Rommell, 2014) by playing a variety of roles in online learning classrooms. Hence, in the paradigm shift, a crucial need is to understand roles that online instructors play in a virtual learning environment (Dennen, Darabi, & Smith, 2007) in order to highlight the paramount importance of faculty presence in an online learning environment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge Building: Refers to an e-instructor, who keeps professionally up-to-date through self-development and learning alongside students and who attains technological knowledge and skills by attending relevant workshops and the frequent interaction with a computer.

Affective Promotion: Encompasses endeavors and strategies made by an e-instructor in fostering students’ emotional involvement in e-learning and in setting up an emotionally supportive learning environment to facilitate student learning.

Teacher Presence: Refers to an instructor, who learns new technology, acts as an instructional developer, designs and organizes an online course prior to its commencement, who is there for students, scaffolds and facilities learning, and promotes students’ affect for learning during course delivery, and who evaluates and reflects on his or her performance to modify it for improvement.

Reflective Practice: Refers to an e-instructor’s consistent behaviors in assessing the course by an ongoing, even daily, basis as well as at the end of a semester in order to motivate learners to succeed in learning.

Purposeful Commitment: Refers to an e-instructor who is committed to helping students become owners of their own learning by the instructor becoming visible through various means in the shared virtual classroom in order to support learning.

Pedagogical Efficacy: Refers to the growth and development of both faculty and students concerning academics-oriented knowledge and skills ranging from content-specific areas to technological skills through efforts exerted by an e-instructor.

Meaningful Management: Refers to an e-instructor who manages a course in ways that may help ease students’ unnecessary frustration resulting from their being situated in a novel learning environment. This type of course management aims to promote students’ affective learning in the virtual classroom.

Purposeful Organization: Refers to an e-instructor who is committed to helping students become owners of their own learning, achieved when the instructor becomes visible through various means in the virtual classroom.

Instructional Preparation: Is related to avenues in which an e-instructor is engaged to make decisions based on information at hand as well as collected through previous experiences of working with students in order to help plan instruction suited to learners’ needs.

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