Roles in the Online Classroom

Navigating the online environment can be quite a challenge, and at times isolating. Reflecting upon our roles in the online environment, both as learners and instructors, can help guide behavior and interaction toward a successful exchange. Below I very briefly reflect upon my understanding of the key roles and functions of both students and instructors in the online environment.

Student Roles

In order to be successful, online students must assume the role of community member and make lasting connections with the community (Roper). As community members, learners need to develop time management skills, become self-motivated and make the most of their engagement with the content and community (Roper). In order to construct a positive learning environment students must be open minded about the sharing of personal experiences and how they interact with the learning process, and feel that high quality learning can occur online (ION). Furthermore, students need to devote enough time to the course and take the time necessarily to provide well though out contributions that demonstrate critical thinking (ION). According to Vesely, “students will get out of a learning community what they put into it”. Therefore, as the Vesely study notes, both student and instructors agree that “student’s interest and priority for the class” are vital. These roles of online learners are similar to in person learners who likewise need to create community and become contributing members of the community. Yet, the time required for the course and time management skills necessary are however distinct for online learners (Roper; ION).

Instructor Roles

As an instructor, I envision my role as a community member focused on supporting learners and facilitating critical thinking through discussion participation. I function in the capacity of social, cognitive, and teaching presence (brocansky). As a co-learner, I create community and monitor the value of student contributions through frequent and consistent engagement (Bull). According Ragan, online instructors play a key role establishing patters for course activities, such as opening activities at consistent times, setting reminders and sending notifications, and demonstrating participating in a routine manner. Instructors build online teaching presence through building and cultivating inclusive learning communities. I also envision my role as instructor to maintaining forward progress by providing students with timely feedback and support (Ragan). Online instructors’ teaching practices for building community are very similar to their face-to-face counterparts, just with slight adaptations (DeAngelis). While the online medium presents new possibilities and challenges, I do not believe that our pedagogical practice should be starkly different.


Works Cited

Brocansky. “How to Humanize Your Online Class.” Retrieved from

Bull, Bernard. (2013). “Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher.” Retrieved from

DeAngelis, Kristin. And J. Garvey Pyke. (). “Online Learning: Building Community.” Retrieved from

Duquesne University. “Establishing an Online Teaching Presence.” Retrieved from

ION, “What Makes a Successful Online Student?” Retrieved from

Moore, Michael G. “Three Types of Interaction.” Retrieved from

Ragan, Lawrence. “10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education.” Retrieved from

Roper, Alan R. (2007). “How Students Develop Online Learning Skills.” Retrieved from

Vesely, Pam. Lisa Bloom and John Sherlock. (2007). “Key Elements of Building Online Community: Comparing Faculty and Student Perceptions.” Retrieved from

Weegar, Mary. And Dina Pacis. (2012). “A Comparison of Two Theories of Learning Behaviorism and Constructivism as applied to Fact-to-Face and Online Learning.” Retrieved from