The Online Classroom

The important takeaways from each course I participate in are those I can apply to my work. I currently teach online. I am an adjunct instructor for two institutions. These two jobs are very different in terms of the flexibility of integrating my ideas and creativity. One uses a systems approach and the other utilizes a more traditional style of online learning. The development of an online course can follow a traditional approach, which is more independent faculty-driven or a collaborative approach (Hixon, Buckenmeyer, Barczyk, Feldman & Zamojski, 2012).  The traditional style approach is still popular in higher education institutions and the early adopters in online education had the technical skills necessary to develop effective courses (Hixon et al., 2012). I was an online student in the early 90s during the infancy of online learning and I believe this has been a benefit (experiencing the student side of online learning) and a challenge (we tend to teach the way we were taught) to my work as an instructor. What I continue to learn as a PhD student has influenced that way I teach, design and develop my courses.

Online learning environments should promote discourse and interaction by providing structured, yet open-ended questions to encourage conversation among students. Providing opportunities for this questioning and discourse are ways in which a teacher supports a student in constructing meaning (Rovai & Jordan, 2004). The CoI model, a constructivist approach to online learning, suggests that meaningful learning occurs when three components are provided in online learning: teaching presence, cognitive presence and social presence (Anderson, 2008). Swan, Garrison & Richardson (2009) argue that constructivist approaches and community are needed in higher education to achieve effective critical thinking. Through supporting discourse, setting the climate, and the selection of content, an instructor provides to the overall educational experience through each “presence” presented in the CoI approach (Anderson, 2008). Murphy, Rodriquez-Manzanares and Barbour (2011) mention the need of a teachers’ guidance in asynchronous learning. The need for an increased teaching presence in fully asynchronous learning may be a factor.

I prefer asynchronous discussions and I believe if used effectively with a “present” instructor, they can provide a deeper understanding of the topic. Hrastinski (2008) found that while synchronous and asynchronous learning complement each other, asynchronous e-learning better supports cognitive participation such as increased reflection. Asynchronous learning may increase cognitive effort because of the removal of immediate feedback in this type of learning and increased reflection, which occurs in asynchronous learning (Hrastinski, 2008). In terms of achievement and attitude outcomes, asynchronous learning had more positive effects. Similarly, the use of “active learning” and interactive media appeared to facilitate better attitudes and positive achievement in asynchronous learning (Bernard et al., 2011).

Puzziferro and Shelton (2008) mention the importance of collaborative course development because of new technologies, time needed to create new courses, and conceptualizing the course for a new environment. What if this isn’t an option, as in a more traditional online course? Ragan (2012) discussed the importance of establishing patterns in course activities.  Because the time and location parameters for online courses are missing, students appreciate knowing the tentative course schedule up front.  If the weekly schedule is established early and modules are opened consistently, students are able to plan and schedule their schoolwork accordingly.

Anderson, T. (2008). Towards a theory of online learning. The Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Edmonton, AB: AU Press.

Hixon, E., Buckenmeyer, J., Barczyk, C., Feldman, L. & Heather Zamojski, H. (2012). Beyond the early adopters of online instruction: Motivating the reluctant majority, The Internet and Higher Education, Volume 15, Issue 2, 102-107

Hrastinski, S. (2008). Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 31, 4, 51–55.

Murphy, E., Rodriguez-Manzanares, M. A., & Barbour, M. (2011). Asynchronous and synchronous online teaching: Perspectives of Canadian high school distance education teacher. British Journal of Educational Technology 42(4), 583-591.

Puzziferro, M., & Shelton, K. (2008). A model for developing high-quality online courses: Integrating a systems approach with learning theory. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(34), 119136.

Ragan, L. C. (2012). 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education. Distance Education Report: Magna, USA.

Rovai, A., & Jordan, H. (2004). Blended Learning and Sense of Community: A Comparative Analysis with Traditional and Fully Online Graduate Courses. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 5(2). Retrieved from

Swan, K., Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework. In Payne, C. R. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57.


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