Online education has become one of the newest mediums to distributing quality, academic lectures and work to students around the world. The potential for spreading higher education classes around the globe is immense, helping thousands access educational documents and topics they never could before. However, there are some issues surrounding the issues of online education, particularly the role of the online college instructor.
The New Classroom
Instructors at college-level courses are typically used to lecturing or leading a seminar in front of several students in a conventional classroom setting. However, with online programs, the learning experience is done through an online website. Each school will have different internet programs that can facilitate classes, and many online colleges have courses where the professor can post bulletins, discussions, and assignments that are available to students. Because of this change in modality, instructors need to make the time to create course materials and curate the online learning space for students. The time spent on these tasks might be an unexpected investment for instructors to make. Instead of preparing for two or three classes a week with office hours, the online college instructor must be near their computer at all times. The proximity and time spent on the computer includes much more work for an online teacher, who must curate the websites and answer student’s e-mails.
The New Students
Another interesting issue for online college instructors is how to handle the new types of students who tend to take online classes. A West Virginia University study found that the students that are part of online programs are typically older than the average college student, such as over the age of 22. In addition, these students are usually self-initiated, since the online environment requires these students to e-mail or call their professors at will. Online college instructors may need to be available more often to take phone calls or e-mails, which will cut into what the instructors might be used to in conventional classroom time. In addition, many students may be from around the country or world. The instructor will be responsible for managing classroom material for students in different time zones, and may need to reply to exchanges that may come across the day or night.
New Challenges and New Opportunities
A University of West Georgia study found that college instructors must get used to the idea that online education is student-based, rather than instructor-based. The students do not come to a space where the instructor is the commanding officer to the environment. Instead, the students willingly control their actions by purposely attending classroom activities during their time and engage with each other and the instructor through different forms of communication. In a way, the online environment is more welcoming of a seminar, where the instructor facilitates questions that lead people to discuss reflective of questions or course material. In addition, the online instructor must be available to provide technical and academic support related to the online learning space and reply to students, who may be across different timezones.
Online education has the potential to reach thousands, if not millions, of students across the world. Online instructors need to cater themselves to this new environment to help students better enjoy and use their online experience for their academic enrichment.