Qualities for a Strong Online vs. F2F Teacher: Are They Different?

Joseph Chianakas80By Joe Chianakas

[Note: This article first appeared in ETCJ as a comment on “Online Learning 2012: Six Issues That Refuse to Die” (12/29/11) on 10/22/13. -Editor]

Improving education and instruction, whether it’s online or F2F, is all about the quality of the teacher. It goes without saying that a bad instructor will create a bad environment, in either setting. A great instructor will have a positive impact on students, no matter the environment. So the questions I would add are: What are the characteristics of a strong educator? Are there different characteristics for the online instructor compared to the F2F instructor?

What are the characteristics of a strong educator? Are there different characteristics for the online instructor compared to the F2F instructor?

A good online instructor must be well-organized, must create a solid structure within the CMS, and must be active and involved with the students. A good F2F instructor? Well, it’s similar, right? So what are the differences?

I think it helps to have a strong personality in the F2F environment, and for me, it’s that social interaction that I enjoy the most about teaching. I build rapport with my students, and I think that makes them enjoy class more and, thus, learn more. It sure makes me enjoy my career more.

Can we do that online? Many try, but it’s not quite the same. Then I wonder: So am I selfish? Do I just want to enjoy my work more? Maybe.

I do know without a doubt that teaching online has enhanced my F2F classes. It has improved my organization, my rubrics, my instructions, and much more in the F2F classroom. It’s easy to sit down and talk to someone about a topic or assignment. It’s significantly more challenging to clearly articulate strong discussion topics and assignments when teaching online.

I really enjoy thinking about these questions. I want to be the best educator I can be, no matter where I’m teaching. And I think it’s important for people to know that we can all learn from one another — that there is value in reflecting what we lose or gain in either medium of teaching. I want to keep asking questions like these and those in the article, and I want to get better at what I do without insulting anyone’s teaching or teaching preferences. Let’s simply strive to improve.

One Response

  1. Joe, this is the type of question educators ought to be asking. However, we don’t, and the implication is that we either don’t see any difference between online and F2F or see online as an inferior alternative to F2F. Either way, growth in effective online teaching models is stymied.

    If we see no difference, then we simply try to port F2F practices into the online learning environment, and in the worst case scenarios, we have web-based live streaming lectures or recorded videos of lectures. When we compare these to the real thing, is anyone surprised that online is found wanting?

    If we view online as an inferior substitute to F2F, the only remaining hope is that technology will somehow miraculously make it possible for us to mimic F2F practices online. Of course, this is a deficit model where online could grow close to but never equal F2F.

    This is why your question is important. It opens up a much needed dialogue on best practice for online teaching.

    The medium is the message, and if we accept the fact that online is a different medium altogether, then we need to alter the message so that it matches the medium. This means unbundling pedagogy from goals and developing new online approaches to achieving the goals.

    i think the qualities of a strong online teacher remain the same at the level of goals, e.g., to develop independent thinkers and learners, but the methods will vary to make the most of the advantages in the online environment.

    Perhaps the greatest strength of online learning is the anytime-anywhere advntage. If we regard this as a principle to guide our development of online instructional theory, I believe we’ll find answers to your questions.

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