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Promoting Learning: The Instructor’s Main Mission or a Secondary Duty?

As instructors, promoting learning is, or at least should be, our primary task. As an online instructor, I must enforce deadlines, respond to requests for accommodations, post announcements, provide guidance and clarity, assess student performance, provide feedback, and post grades. Instructors have a variety of duties inside and outside the classroom to meet the standards required by the university, yet our primary mission should remain ensuring that students are gaining new knowledge.

In the online classroom environment, the instructor has the opportunity to remain faceless, detached, and a distant enforcer of classroom etiquette, academic integrity, and grading standards. Such a teaching model might allow an instructor to remain employed, yet one might consider the negative effect on student engagement and motivation, communication flow, and the overall learning environment. If promoting new learning is a secondary function of being an instructor, I submit that the instructor has a misguided view of what teaching entails.

Below are a few strategies that help promote learning as our primary mission:

As instructors, our primary focus should remain on student learning. Do we all have contractual duties to fulfill? Yes, and hopefully a key contractual duty is facilitating learning. Checking the boxes needed to meet the minimum faculty standards should be a faint byproduct of our engagement efforts with students. Is remaining in the background of the course, allowing students to basically “go it alone” easier and less time-consuming for the instructor? Yes, but we did not take the job because it was easy or because we wanted to see how little work we could perform to stay employed with the school. Make a lasting difference in the lives of your students. Be the instructor that students remember as the one whom they actually learned something from, because your mission was to teach them something.

Ronald C. Jones, dissertation chair, University of Phoenix; associate faculty, Ashford University.