As I study and practice the roles in the online learning experience, I am finding how different it really is from the classroom experience.
In the classroom the teacher presents, the learners are more passive, and the resources are brought to the classroom for students to take home and absorb through homework or practice. You can gage the absorption of the material through eye contact, body language, and Q & A and adjust the content accordingly.
In the online environment, you need a tremendous amount of preparation of content that is visually engaging, and incorporates audio or video and a great deal of interaction so as to reach a vast array of learning styles and attention spans. In addition to being a subject matter expert, you need to be an engaging interpersonal communicator. Much more so than in the classroom it seems to me.
And then there are the tech needs, the instructor needs to be tech saavy as well as the learners in the online environment. You have to make sure everyone can access the system and can get through to the urls, and understands how to function and use the materials - mics headphones, video) for ease of learning. For an older teacher like myself, its a bit intimidating and exciting to be honest.
To help people relax in a classroom you can be welcoming, tell a joke or two, and people relax. In the online environment to help people relax, you also need a good sense of humor, but you have to help them want to engage with the system and want to engage with the content. Comfort zones become part of the experience, and the teacher has to create emotional engagement with each person and help them be comfortable, or s/he will loose them from the beginning.
So the teacher needs to know what the learning environment is for each student, work or home. And the demands of that environment need to be considered and the instruction tailored accordingly.
Interaction activities have to be a major part of the lesson plan, in both synchronous and asynchronous environments. And that fascinates me. And was a surprise. I'm really looking forward to figuring out how to create interactive moments in my classes - because I can see how the benefits of interaction reinforces the content through active sharing and comparing, and intensifies the bonding of the learners the absorption of the material, and the engagement with the instructor. What fun - I hope!