Roles and Responsibilities During Online Collaboration: the Instructor

To help promote online community building, instructors need to be ...
  • Facilitators, allowing students to negotiate group norms within sets of guidelines
  • Flexible, prepared to "throw away their agendas and need for control in order to let the process happen" (Palloff and Pratt, 1999, p. 29)
  • Fosterers, "able to make space for personal issues" (p. 29) and allow learners to forge social bonds (p. 30). Often, this can be as simple as creating a "cafe" discussion space, and/or modeling empathetic communication.
  • Fearless, willing to "let go of old methods of pedagogy" that direct and dominate learning (p. 31). The sage on the stage must take a bow and ... exeunt!

How "personable" or informal should the instructor be? Is it reasonable to use emoticons for modeling learning community interactions? What effects might emoticons have on instructor and student ethos?

Student comment:
What would I change in the Learn format? The monitoring of the groups. K__ did a good job in her summarizing our conversations – at least I thought so.... Perhaps if you sent little reminders or questions to groups, it would work because a lot of the work was on off-learn time – mainly on the telephone and on IM.
~Kevin Doyle

How "active" should the instructor be? Should the instructor lurk in the background or maintain an active presence during online team planning? Are there best practices for monitoring online collaborative writing processes?


Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (1999). Building learning communities in cyberspace: effective strategies for the online classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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