What makes a good on-line professor?

What makes a good professor? The ability to command a class, to deliver interesting lectures that impart knowledge and inspire students to learn, to grade fairly, to craft quizzes and exams that demand the most while not asking too much. A good teacher is one thing, but a good college professor is a good teacher on another level.

An on-line professor needs a different approach than a conventional professor, photo by University of Manchester Schools & Colleges

An on-line professor needs a different approach than a conventional professor, photo by University of Manchester Schools & Colleges

But what is it that makes a good distance learning professor? This is a completely different kind of teacher or instructor, one that has to lead a class without any physical interaction with them. The same information has to be taught, the same assignments, essays, quizzes, and tests given on the same material, but the on line professor cannot stand in front of the class and command them.  How can you tell how your professor is any good?

The truth is, it’s a tough job to be an inspiring distance learning professor. The professor is basically just an e-mail account. Perhaps you take a class with recorded lectures, so your professor has a face and a voice. But for many classes, there is not even that level of interaction. It’s easy to see the role as one of a proctor, more than teacher – the proctor gives the information, sets the rules, and delivers the verdict (grade) with minimal interaction with the students.

One has to look at and evaluate distance learning professors differently than other professors. But these qualities are important for them to be effective at their jobs and helpful to their students.

Organized – Without a clear, concise plan for the semester, your professor could make your class tougher than it needs to be. A good professor will have a detailed, informative syllabus up long before the class begins, letting the students know the major dates for the class, the books and materials needed, and an overview of what the course entails. Since all the class information needs to be delivered electronically, its imperative that the professor have everything written concisely and clearly, and delivered to the students on time.

Available – “Electronic availability” is of essential importance for the distance learner. Since the student cannot talk to the professor after class, or visit them during office hours, the professor needs to be available by message or e-mail whenever needed. A lag time in response of a few days, or even a few hours, might make the difference of a letter grade in the class. A good on line professor will always e in contact with their students to answer questions or give direction.

Responsive – But being available isn’t worth very much if the professor isn’t involved with the students. A responsive professor keeps up with the discussion board postings, and helps guide the discussion when needed. A responsive professor gives insightful feedback, and encourages the class however possible to keep them motivated and focused on the material.

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