Online instructing (teaching) refers to any kind of
instruction that takes place via a computer network,
most commonly the internet. It typically employs
software that allows students and teachers to send
messages to each other such as via email, as well as
conferencing software that lets participants conduct
multi-person discussions either in real-time (often
called "chats"), or on a delayed basis (asynchronous--
often called "threaded discussions").
Most often, online teaching occurs in the context of
distance education, i.e., settings in which learners and
teachers are located in different places and all or most
interaction takes place via the network. However, it is
increasingly being employed in "blended" or "hybrid"
courses that are at least partially on the school
campus (e.g., 50% online + 50% face-to-face).
How does Online differ from the
Instructing in the online environment is constantly
evolving. In many respects, it is similar to traditional
teaching. Nevertheless, as compared to most teaching
in traditional contexts, online teaching is different in
the following ways:
Time, Distance and Device
Learners can participate in online learning situations
from any place in the world (distance-independent),
using any computer platform (device-independent), at
any time of the day or night (time-independent).
Students can interact extensively with each other, with
instructors, and with online resources. Instructors and
experts often act as presenters and facilitators. They
can provide support, feedback, and guidance via both
synchronous and asynchronous communications.
Asynchronous communication tools (e.g. email,
threaded discussion forums, etc.) allow for time-
independent interaction, whereas synchronous
communication tools (e.g., chatrooms) allow for live
Online courses use varied graphics, audio, video,
animation, web 2.0 tools, etc. Learners can browse
through libraries, museums, and archives, or consult
experts from around the globe.
Learners have the freedom to move outside their
environment, as opposed to closed systems (e.g.,
book, CD-ROM), where they are confined to areas
pre-determined by the teacher or designer. This
enables information and resources from around the
world to be accessed by anyone with an internet
connection. It also permits both teachers and learners
to contribute immediate updates of course material
with online access to many new developments and
The online situation appears to foster a democratic
learning environment where the learner can influence
what is learned, how it is learned, and the order in
which it is learned. The instructor, while often selecting
to do some online presenting, is often less of an orator
and more of a facilitator.