A common misconception is that an online course basically runs itself after it has been launched. When this view is taken, course facilitators see themselves as only needed when learners encounter difficulties, e.g. some confusion or technical problem. They believe that online learners have all the resources they need and that learners can turn to their peers for clarification as needed.
However, an interactive online course is much more than a library of resources and peer interaction, although these elements are significant. Online courses do allow learners to work more independently, but learners still need the inspiration and guidance provided by an involved instructor:
- Learners enjoy hearing from the experienced instructor, the expert in the class.
- They expect their instructor to challenge their thinking and offer resources tailored to their interests.
- They appreciate reminders and ongoing advice on how to meet the challenges posed in the class.
Some instructors may feel like they can’t really get to know someone in an online course. Other instructors have the heart of a teacher and find ways to bridge the distance gap; they think about the best ways to connect with their learners ongoing so they can get to know them, and assist with their struggles and interests. These instructors put the time in; they schedule time to engage in online class discussions and plan for when they will provide feedback to learners. The learners in these classes get to know their instructor and don’t feel disconnected just because the class is online. After all, an online course isn’t a remote island that is hard to visit. You just turn on your computer and there are all your learners — just waiting for you to encourage them and help them on their journey.