Thursday, February 20, 2014

Redefining the Professor’s Role in the Online World

Online classrooms have made their way onto the education scene in a big way. A considerable amount of higher education institutions have begun to understand the benefits of online coursework. Most educational theories are based within face-to-face classrooms and online classroom research is lacking. A paper by Arbaugh, et. al. (2013) discusses the need for additional research in online classroom management from a manager’s perspective. This research runs from professor management all the way to online learning theories.

There is a bias by instructors against online learning even though more universities are adapting the technology. The bias comes in part from a lack of research to support online learning and the very perception professors have of their traditional academic roles.  No longer does the concept of pipe smoke filled rooms, tweed jackets and dusty books define a professor’s role. It has been replaced by a laptop and kindle.  

What is an online professor? It is defined as an instructor that teaches at least 80% of their presentation content and interaction in a virtual setting (Allen, et. al. 2007). The online professor has skills in online communication, technology, and their individual content areas to raise student awareness. They are savvy in technology and use sophisticated tools to conduct research. 

This relatively new phenomenon, which is now making its way into the mainstream, opens a new market for academic research. This type of research includes critical management education, experiential learning, planning student activities, management education and literature, job design, recruitment, training, retention and motivation, and many more areas. The entire arena of online management and education is open for exploration.

The author suggests starting with traditional educational and management theories to create online tests and experiments to adopt them to the online world. As the research gap is filled, it will lend more credibility to the field as well as more concisely show the benefits of online education. Traditional professor reservations about redefining their roles will lessen as information becomes available to make proper assessments. The use, strength, and practicality of online education will increase with improved methods. Universities may find better management paradigms through understanding the virtual world better. 

Allen, et. al. (2007). Blending in: The extent and promise of blended learning in the United States. Needham,MA: Sloan-C.

Arbaugh, J. et. al. (2013). New uses for existing tools? A call to study online management instruction for instructors. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 12 (4).

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