Faculty Student Interaction in Online Learning Environment Literature Review

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Student engagement is important when teaching any class. It is especially significant when faculty teach in the online learning environment where students are not only isolated from their instructor but from fellow students. Advances in online technologies are creating exciting opportunities for learning in the virtual space. Benefits of online learning are well-known, but online learning also has its disadvantages including high attrition rates due to diminished student engagement, inadequate training and support for teachers tasked with implementing and administering online courses, and the relative newness of the technologies themselves.

Introduction to the Three Streams

Online relationships with faculty and students. The first stream considered is the types of online relationships that exist between faculty and students. The fundamental differences that exist between online relationships compared to traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms is discussed first, followed by an assessment concerning how online relationships between faculty and students can be improved.

Developing effective online instructional practices. The second stream of interest concerns the types of instructional practices that are most effective in online settings, an issue that has become especially salient as more coursework is transferred to Web-based offerings. In some cases, additional training is required to help teachers become proficient in the use of the supporting technologies, while in other cases new pedagogical approaches are required.

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Course development and design. The final stream of interest involves developing and designing curricular offerings that are appropriate for online venues, which involves more than a wholesale placement of existing coursework online and expecting positive academic outcomes.

Taken together, it is clear that all three of these streams represent essential components of an effective online learning environment and none of them can be excluded from the implementation and administration of online learning opportunities.

Discussion and Analysis of the Three Streams

TOPIC: Literature Review on Faculty Student Interaction in Online Learning Environment Assignment

Differences between Faculty-Student Online Relationships and Conventional Relationships. The research to date indicates that there is no "one-size-fits-all" learning approach that is most suitable in every situation (Lao & Gonzales, 2005). Rather, course content can be delivered through a wide range of learning venues that exist along a continuum of combinations of synchronous and asynchronous interactions.

These respective learning environments are described by Hall as follows:

1. Quadrant I (Asynchronous -- Personal). This quadrant represents personalized learning such as writing or planning.

2. Quadrant II. The focus of this quadrant is on individual online learning such as taking a virtual facility tour or blogging.

3. Quadrant III. This quadrant involves team interactive learning on the Internet such as simulations and linear chatrooms.

4. Quadrant IV. The emphasis in this quadrant is on real time multi-student learning experiences such as team presentations and faculty lectures.

As a result, there are a wide range of online formats that can be used for faculty-student and student-student interactions, including chatrooms, bulletin boards and blogs. With respect to chatroom, there are two basic alternatives available: (a) linear (synchronous) and (b) threaded (asynchronous) (Hall, 2008). According to Hall, "In a linear chatroom environment students are encouraged to interact proactively in near real time to a specific case or problem. The primary focus is on the interactive process. Chatrooms and electronic bulletin boards have been successfully utilized in a variety of graduate level courses" (Hall, 2008, p. 2). Generally speaking, online learning venues that use mostly asynchronous methods are better suited for individual knowledge acquisition; by contrast, synchronous learning is typically more appropriate for multiple student learning settings (Hall, 2008). The typical characteristics of the support systems that are used for Web-based learning include the following:

1. They provide a high degree of interaction and collaboration;

2. They provide students with a dynamic and personal experience for continuous learning.

3. Such support systems offer learners a purposeful entry to the Internet and online resources, and to a new era of learning technologies.

4. They underpin new patterns of relationships between education and business that directly impact the learning process (Hall, 2008).

The foregoing will help educators better understand how faculty-students interactions take place in online venues, and improving these relationships is discussed further below.


Improving the Quality of Online Relationships. With respect to the quality of online relationships between faculty and students, there has been a general paucity of relevant research until relatively recently (Cohen & Ellis, 2005). Moreover, faculty members have been largely excluded in the research to date concerning distance education in general and online learning environments in particular until relatively recently (Hiltz & Goldman, 2004). The research to date indicates that in online learning settings:

1. Faculty changed their teaching persona toward more precision in their presentation of materials and instructions that emphasized communications with students.

2. Although instructors have experienced more difficulty getting their point across and were more constrained in managing on-the-spot behavioral issues and educational opportunities, they could also integrate online materials seamlessly into the course, draw from a broader pool of potential online guests, and often saw stronger one-to-one relationships formed in online courses than in face-to-face courses.

3. Instructors report increased course interaction.

4. Forging online learning relationships requires greater amounts of work

5. Faculty can frequently develop stronger one-to-one relationships with students in online courses than in face-to-face ones (Hiltz & Goldman, 2004).

Despite its relative newness and the constraints involved in deploying and administering online curricular offerings, many educators and students alike have reported positive results (Perreault, Waldman, Alexander & Zhao, 2008; Rabe-Hemp, Woollen & Humiston, 2009). For instance, according to Hiltz and Goldman, "An increasing number of researchers examining larger asynchronous learning networks have begun to characterize online teaching and learning as rewarding and satisfying" (2004, p. 190). Among the positive outcomes related to teaching online that have been reported by faculty that can reasonably be expected to affect the faculty-student relationship include the following:

1. More and higher quality interaction with students.

2. Convenience and flexibility for their teaching and student students' learning.

3. Increased access to untapped student populations and increased access for student to higher education.

4. Better understanding of educational technology.

5. Enhanced opportunities for professional recognition and research.

6. High levels of student learning.

7. Greater necessity/opportunity for more systematic design of online instruction and a corollary positive impact on student learning and classroom teaching (Hiltz & Goldman, 2004, p. 180).

Although there remains a need for further research in this stream, Hiltz and Goldman (2004) emphasize that the research to date concerning multicourse as well as multi-institutional implementations of online learning support the above findings.


Statement concerning how together the stream supports the research problem. It is axiomatic that in order to improve something, it must first be measured and understood (Service, 2009). By examining the basic differences between traditional classroom instruction and online instructions, educators can gain an improved understanding of the intricacies of online interactions, how and why they are used and then take steps to improve the quality of these communications.


Instructional practices


Introduction. The second stream of interest involves the types of instructional practices that are most effective in online venues. Although the pedagogical approaches that are used for delivering high-quality educational services in the classroom can be applied to online venues (Bressler, Bressler & Bressler, 2010), there is far more involved than simply transferring existing curricular offerings to a series of Web pages to assure student engagement in the curricular offerings (Sull, 2009).


Background and Overview. Like their conventional face-to-face counterparts, online instructional practices consist of three fundamental components: (a) content, (b) technology, and (c) pedagogy (Koeher et al., 2004). To help inform the analysis of instructional practices in online venues, Koeher and her colleagues (2004) provide definitions for the following relevant terms set forth in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Definitions of Relevant Online Course Development and Design Terms




This refers to the actual subject matter that is to be learned/taught. Clearly the content to be covered in high-school social studies is very different from the content to be covered in a graduate course on political science. In the case of a particular course, this would mean the core ideas, knowledge, procedures, resources (reading lists, etc.) and representations that make up the course and subject matter.


This encompasses standard technologies such as books and chalk and blackboard, as well as more advanced technologies such as the Internet and digital video. Different ways of presenting and interacting with information on the screen are important factors when considering technology.


Content and technology have to come together to inform pedagogy. Pedagogy is viewed as the process and practice or methods of teaching and learning and it encompasses (among other things) overall educational purposes, values, aims as well as techniques or methods to be used in the classroom, the nature of the target audience and strategies for evaluating student understandings.

Source: Koehler et al., 2004, p. 27

Instructional practices in online learning environments are characterized by many of the same balancing requirements as their conventional classroom counterparts as well (Badke, 2008). For instance, Koeher et al. emphasize that, "Teaching and learning with technology exist… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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