11 Describe the Role of an Online Instructor

Community of Inquiry Model: The Educational Experience requires the instructor to set the climate, select content, and support discourse. An effective Community of Inquiry requires Cognitive Presence, Social Presence, and Teaching Presence. This is represented in a Venn diagram.
Image Credit: Rawia Inaim. Adapted from: https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/

As you have already learned, when you join an online course, you become part of what is known as a Community of Inquiry and you take on an important role in this online learning environment.

What is the role of your instructor in this learning environment?  Your online instructor provides the teaching presence to create design significant learning experiences for you and your fellow students.  Instructors also thoughtfully facilitate the content that will support your learning in the class. They also direct you by answering questions and challenging your assumptions to help you grow in your knowledge and skills.

Online instructor roles: Design, facilitation, direction
Image credit: Christina Page

In online classrooms, your instructor takes on the following roles:

  • Designer:  In a museum, a curator locates the best artifacts to create an effective experience for those who visit. In an online learning environment, your instructors take on the role like that of a curator as they design the course.  They will guide you towards readings and other learning materials that will serve your learning goals.  Based on their experience in their field, they are able to help you focus your attention on learning resources that are accurate and relevant.
  • Facilitator:  Your instructor carefully creates opportunities for you to learn the skills you need for your future career, and designs assignments and learning activities to lead you towards intellectual, personal, and professional growth. As you review the course presentation, consider each of the learning activities and assignments.  Think about the reasons why your instructor may have selected these course components to contribute to your development.
  • Director: Online instructors are available to answer questions along the way. As you learn, you will inevitably find areas that are unclear to you, either related to the course content or your learning process.  By communicating with your instructor effectively, you will take full advantage of their role in guiding you on your journey.[1]


For Reflection

Now that you have considered the roles of your online instructor, consider how these roles will shape your work as a student, and your relationship with the instructor.

Click here to download a PDF copy of this worksheet.

Instructor Role My Response and Learning Strategies









Media Attributions

  1. Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2008). Blended learning in higher education: framework, principles, and guidelines (1st ed). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


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Learning to Learn Online Copyright © 2018 by Marti Alger, Christina Page, and Adam Vincent is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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