An effective teaching presence within an online (or blended) course will combine facilitation with direction and leadership (also referred to as 'direct instruction' in the videos in this screen).

An effective teaching presence within an online (or blended) course will combine facilitation with direction and leadership (also referred to as 'direct instruction' in the interviews in this section).

direction and leadership

Recognises 'the continuous need for the expertise of an experienced and responsible online teacher who can identify the ideas and concepts worthy of study, provide the conceptual order, organise learning activities, guide the discourse, offer additional sources of information, diagnose misconceptions, and interject when required' (Garrison and Vaughan, 2008).

Blended learning icon

You will need to provide the leadership that will focus discourse, resolve issues and ensure that students achieve the intended learning outcomes in a timely fashion in ways that facilitation alone is not intended to do. In formal educational learning environments, there is the expectation that discourse be purposeful, rigorous, and productive. This is the function of direction and leadership. Evidence strongly suggests that perceived learning and satisfaction is associated with strong leadership (Akyol & Garrison, 2011; Garrison, 2011).

Watch the following video in which experienced online teachers explain how they direct and lead their online courses.

Consider the following interviews in which experienced online teachers explain how they direct and lead their online courses.

Click 'Play' to watch the video.
CoI Teaching presence icon

Foundations

One of the principles of teaching presence is 'the continuous need for the...

Evidence

Akyol, Z. & Garrison, D. R.(2011), 'Understanding cognitive presence in an...

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Now that you have had the opportunity to listen to experienced online teachers discussing direction and leadership in online teaching, take a moment to reflect on your own understanding by working through each of the questions in the following note-taking activity.

Having considered these teachers' discussions on direction and leadership in online teaching, take a moment now to reflect on your own understanding.

Work through each of the questions in the following activity, entering your own answers in the space provided before clicking on 'View feedback' to compare them with our suggestions. Use the 'Next' button to move to the next question. You can click the 'View summary' button to access a printable summary at the end.
Consider the following questions. In each case, pause to think about your response before continuing on to see our suggestions.

Key terms

Forming', 'storming', 'norming' and 'performing' are terms used by Bruce...

PROGRAMME | Teaching Online
COURSE | Being a successful online teacher
UNIT | 4 : Directing and leading an online course
PAGE TITLE | Direction and leadership

Question 1 of 5:

What might be the consequences of too much or too little direction? How much is too much?

Our thoughts:

Too much direction from the teacher will shut down student participation and discourse in an online course. Too little direction often prevents students from achieving the application or resolution phase of an inquiry process.

When students begin to constantly rely on you, as the online teacher, for answers rather than on their peers or themselves, you know that you are providing too much direction.


Question 2 of 5:

What strategies can a teacher employ in order to improve the quality of direction and leadership provided to students?

Our thoughts:

In an online course, it is important that teachers first 'listen' to their students in order to fully understand their questions or misconceptions before providing direction and leadership.

When providing direction and leadership it is also important to create a 'feedback loop' where students tell you if the teaching has been useful or not.


Question 3 of 5:

How can a teacher sustain student respect and responsibility in an online course?

Our thoughts:

Teachers can sustain student respect and responsibility by becoming aware of the phases of group development in an online course. This often follows a progression of forming, storming, norming, and performing (see the 'Key terms' pod to the right).

Personal conflict can often arise in the storming phase and it is important that the online teacher provides guidance to the students on how to resolve their own problems rather than always looking for 'someone else' to solve the problem.


Question 4 of 5:

How can an online teacher encourage students to move ahead with, and apply, their learning?

Our thoughts:

Students in online courses are often comfortable sharing information, resources, and personal perspectives but get 'stuck' at putting these initial ideas into practice. Thus, it is important that the online teacher designs collaborative project-based activities and provides feedback that requires students to 'put their learning into practice'.


Question 5 of 5:

Why is it important that we share the roles of direction and leadership with our students in an online course? How can this be achieved?

Our thoughts:

In order for students to become self-directed learners it is important that we, as online teachers, provide them with opportunities to take on the responsibilities of direction and leadership. Such opportunities include student-moderated online discussions, including responsibility for summarising discussions, and team-based projects.

Portfolio icon

You may wish to copy your responses and the suggestions presented in the previous activity into your Teaching Online portfolio for future reference.

You may wish to copy your responses and the suggestions presented here into your Teaching Online portfolio for future reference.

In conclusion, it is clear that direction and leadership are crucial for maintaining the educational and academic climate and direction of an online course, just as they are in face-to-face and blended courses. Students in an online course should also be encouraged and afforded the opportunity to provide direction when necessary. Only when significant issues arise that arrest the timely developmental progress should the teacher intervene. These interventions should be limited if students are to gain metacognitive awareness, responsibility, and control (monitoring and management) of their learning. This goes to the core of understanding of teaching presence as a distributed responsibility.

In conclusion, it is clear that direction and leadership are crucial for maintaining the educational and academic climate and direction of an online course, just as they are in face-to-face and blended courses. Students in an online course should also be encouraged and afforded the opportunity to provide direction when necessary. Only when significant issues arise that arrest the timely developmental progress should the teacher intervene. These interventions should be limited if students are to gain metacognitive awareness, responsibility, and control (monitoring and management) of their learning. This goes to the core of understanding of teaching presence as a distributed responsibility.

In the following screens, we will explore the two related principles in more detail:

In the following sections, we will explore the two related principles in more detail:

  1. Student respect and responsibility
  2. Sustaining inquiry

Foundations

One of the principles of teaching presence is 'the continuous need for the expertise of an experienced and responsible online teacher who can identify the ideas and concepts worthy of study, provide the conceptual order, organise learning activities, guide the discourse, offer additional sources of information, diagnose misconceptions, and interject when required' (Garrison and Vaughan, 2008).

Evidence

Akyol, Z. & Garrison, D. R. (2011), 'Understanding cognitive presence in an online and blended community of inquiry: Assessing outcomes and processes for deep approaches to learning', in British Journal of Educational Technology 42(2): pp.233–250.

Garrison, D. R. (2011) E-Learning in the 21st century: A Framework for Research and Practice, 2nd ed. London: Routledge/Falmer.

Key terms

'Forming', 'storming', 'norming' and 'performing' are terms used by Bruce Tuckman in his 1965 team development model.

In the 'forming' stage of team development, group members rely heavily on the group leader for direction.

In the 'storming' stage, members will often experience conflict as they compete for their position in the group.

By the 'norming' stage of team development, group members are largely in agreement with one another regarding roles, responsibilities and decisions. The leader facilitates the team, but leadership is increasingly shared by the team.

In the 'performing' stage of team development, group members operate effectively together as a team. The team is able to make autonomous decisions and solve problems without needing the input of the leader, although the leader can provide assistance if required.