The role of the classroom teacher when students are working online
Although many school systems are enhancing the use of online learning in the classroom, there is still an important role for the teacher. Even without the daily responsibility of directly instructing the group, there are other obligations which become more important when working with a group of online learners. In fact, the skill set required to be successful is somewhat different than that of the regular classroom teacher. With online learners, it is a necessity for the teacher to be able to communicate clearly, because inflections and non-verbal signs are not seen and heard, so all communication is done through the power of words.
Some of the responsibilities for the classroom teacher include, but are not limited to:
The classroom teacher in an online setting is not oblivious to what the students are trying to learn. Because many school online programs are in their infancy stage, the teacher may be required to assist with writing the syllabus, assignments and pacing guide. Course development can be an expected task for the online classroom teacher.
One of the core learning elements for the online community comes through the work done through discussion boards. In a typical course, each student will regularly be required to read an article or view a visual presentation and be expected to post one thought on some part of the material. Also, a student will be expected to respond to two or more postings from classmates.
The online teacher is responsible for leading course discussions. This entails clearly communicating expectations to the students so that the assignment is performed correctly from the beginning. The teacher also acts as the online moderator, which means guiding course discussions, keeping the postings on the necessary track and acting as the voice of reason if there is a strong disagreement.
Although many assignments are self-paced and hands-on, the online teacher is still the instructional leader and most knowledgeable of the group. The teacher still needs to be available to answer student questions and address concerns. One expectation for the classroom teacher is to be available to promptly answer questions that cannot be solved through an online option.
The online classroom teacher is responsible for keeping the coursework moving at an acceptable pace. Part of this role is performed during the writing of the syllabus, as the teacher makes sure to properly space assignments to meet the needs of the group. This is also accomplished with prompt feedback and quick resolution to any disagreements, with the objective being to keep the group moving. If the course is not offered in a traditional quarter or semester system, one role of the teacher may be to modify the course around various school vacation breaks.
The classroom teacher of an online group is also responsible for grading student work. This includes setting up the grading rubric, assignment rubric, as well as developing and implementing class policies for missed assignments and work which is turned in late.
In short, the role of the teacher working with online students is still relevant. Given that the skill set is different, it is possible for a proficient classroom teacher to have difficulty working with online learners unless one has learned how to clearly communicate without the assistance of non-verbal cues.