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I just finished reading an interesting, brief article on the role of the online instructor’s personality in the virtual classroom (Oregon University, 2016, article has since been archived). The author makes the point that we’ve long understood the role of instructor personality in the face-to-face classroom (with dynamic, humorous, “fun” instructors often receiving higher student evaluation scores than the stereotypical drudge of an instructor). But what about the personality of the online instructor? Especially in this day and age when many online courses are pre-designed and pre-written by SMEs and instructional designers. Is the online instructor losing their voice?

My answer to that: No. We have not lost our voice, even if our courses are pre-packaged. In nearly every online classroom there is a discussion board and I, as a seasoned online instructor, have used that platform to demonstrate my personal style, sense of humor, and care for my students. I actually do not see much of a difference between using a textbook in the face-to-face world and using a SME/Instructional designer-built course in the online world. Neither were created by the instructor, but both serve as a springboard for teaching in our own personal ways either in front of the students in the traditional classroom or in the online discussion board.

I find that moving our “selves” from the traditional to the online environment is not something to be feared, but an opportunity to be embraced. With the time saved not developing the course ourselves, we re-invest that energy into the discussion boards where we teach, lead, guide, and – honestly – have fun!

I thought this was an interesting article because when I used to train traditional instructors how to teach online, this was often their biggest concern. “How will ‘I’ translate online? I feel like students will miss out on the benefits of my personal teaching style.” After taking an online courses for about a week, they quickly realize that one’s personality can translate quite well online.  Is it the exact same thing? Certainly not. But effective in different, but equally strong ways.

What are your thoughts? Do you think your personality translates well online? If you have not taught online before, is this something you are concerned about? Please leave a comment below so we can discuss!

2 Responses to “The Role of the Online Teacher’s Personality”

  1. Alice Schluger

    I support the viewpoint that the instructors’ personality and teaching style translate into the online classroom. The discussion threads allow for effective communication between students and instructors on a variety of pivotal topics. The lesson plans that supplement the standardized syllabus provide an opportunity for instructors to be creative and establish rapport with students. As an online instructor, I make a concerted effort to give students individualized formative and summative feedback in order to build and maintain collaborative relationships throughout the term. Teachers also become familiar with students by posting biographies at the beginning of the course, as well as posting responses that are welcoming and engaging within the virtual learning environment.

    • Brooke Shriner

      Agreed on all points. I’ve also noticed that my online classrooms tend to be much smaller in size than my traditional classrooms, which also allows for more connection with students.


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