Role and Constructivist Competencies for Online Instructors

Student-Generated Content
Author Information
Marsha L. Parker
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Wayne State University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Distance education programs in higher education, sometimes called online learning programs, are evolving into the preferred model for how we educate and grow our talent for the 21st century. The traditional role of an instructor was focused on creating an effective learning environment based in a physical classroom setting. Recently, there has been a shift from the online instructor managing this environment to the learner's ability to manage and construct their own knowledge based on constructivist principles. In this decade institutions are educating and training online instructors to transfer those skills to a virtual online asynchronous learning environment. Online programs based in higher education, specifically focused on adult learners is transforming how and why we educate our communities. This study will focus on online instructors who facilitate in an asynchronous learning environment populated by adult learners who attend institutions in higher education. Institutions are questioning how do we transition an instructor into this new role as a constructivist facilitator of information while building their competencies to be an effective online instructor? This question is explored by defining the criteria for success based on core and functional (unique) competencies focused on creating a stimulating and engaging online learning environment.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

This research study will examine the role of an online instructor, and define the unique (constructivist) competencies for being successful as an online instructor. The study will define the competencies and associated performance descriptors to assist in defining a certification program for coaching and mentoring existing faculty online instructors. This certification structure will also support how institutions (colleges, profit and non-profit universities) hire, evaluate and rank the performance of new online instructors using proposed constructivist competency model. As higher education institutions focus on retention of the adult learner population a shift must occur in the performance standards required for online instructors. These performance standards must be clearly defined and communicated by an institution if they are to remain competitive in the industry of delivering online courses. The proposed constructivist competency model in this study will establish a framework for establishing the performance standards for measuring a quality online learning course.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Study being conducted via Wayne State University
Study results due by Oct. 2013

How does this practice relate to pillars?: 

Description of learning pillar: The LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS pillar is concerned with ensuring that online students are provided with a high quality education. This means that online students' learning should at least be equivalent to that of traditional students. Rather it means that instructors and course developers should take advantage of the unique characteristics of online environments to provide learning experiences that represent the distinctive quality of the institution offering them.

This study focused on defining and developing the characteristics of a quality online environment. Online instructors are the main catalyst for creating a quality online learning experience. This experience can be enhanced through the implementation of quality practices and standards (competencies) in an online learning course. Institutions are responsible for the development of online faculty and want instructors to produce a quality online learning experiences for its students. Institutions will have the ability to implement these constructivist standards (competencies) in how they hire, train, reward and recognize faculty and in exchange create a quality online learning program. Learning effectiveness is the cornerstone of how we effectively build a quality program.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

None required

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

No costs
Time & resources of faculty developmental training

References, supporting documents: 

Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Toward a design theory of problem-solving. Educational Technology Research and Development, 48 (4), 63-85.

Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, F.P. (1994). Joining together: Group theory and group skills. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the cyberspace classroom: The realities of online teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rovai, A. P. (2003). Strategies for grading online discussions: Effects on discussions and classroom community in Internet-based university courses. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 15 (1), 89-107.

Sellers, R.,(2001). “Learning to Teach in a Virtual Environment: A Case Study of the Louisiana Virtual Classroom Teachers”, Doctoral dissertation, Louisiana State University.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Marsha L. Parker
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