Becoming a great e-teacher!

What makes an online instructor a great online instructor?

While online teachers need to provide intellectual and scholarly leadership, and share subject matter knowledge with students, some have said that the role of online teaching is unlike classroom-based teaching in that “the teacher must adopt the role of the facilitator, not content provider”. While there are many different ways to adopt the role of a facilitator, the Gilly 5-step model, created by Gilly Salmon, a digital learning innovator, (read more about Gilly here) helps teachers to effectively teach, and moderate an online course:

Stage One: Access & Motivation

  • Provide students with access & motivation.
  • Provide support, technical assistance, & a welcome.
  • Provide reassurance & encouragement.
  • Ensure students know how to access the online group.

Stage Two: Online Socialization

  • Continue to develop online socialization by “building bridges between cultural, social, and learning environments” in students.
  • Provide opportunities for interaction, and encourage sharing of identities.
  • Lead a round of introductions, or online ice breakers.

Stage Three: Information Exchange

  • Suggest that the teaching task moves to facilitating learning tasks, moderating content-based discussions, to bring to light student misconceptions and misunderstandings.
  • Provide guidance on appropriate and effective use of discussion space, and encourage participation.

Stage Four: Knowledge Construction

  • Students focus on creating knowledge artifacts and projects that collaboratively and individually illustrate their understanding of course content and approaches.
  • Encourage all learners to contribute, ask reflective questions, and summarize discussions.

Stage Five: Development

  • Learners become responsible for their own learning and that of their group by creating final projects, working on summative assignments, and demonstrating achievement of learning outcomes.
  • Allow room for the learner to expand on the knowledge and experience gained at their own pace.
  • Encourage critical thinking, and discussion of concepts at a deeper, and higher level.
  • Seek feedback.


Other qualities for a good e-teacher according to “Theory and Practice of Online Learning”:

  • Good e-teachers like to deal with learners.
  • Have sufficient knowledge of their subject domain.
  • Convey enthusiasm both for the subject and for their task as a learning motivator.
  • Have a set of learning activities at their disposal by which to orchestrate, motivate, and assess effective learning.
  • Have the type of resilience, innoviateness, and perseverance that online education demands.


A teacher is expected to provide direct instruction by interjecting comments, referring students to information resources, and organizing activities that allow the student to construct the content in their own minds, and personal contexts. Gilly’s model, and incorporating other qualities for a good e-teacher supplements, facilitates these duties, and ultimately forms the constructs of a great e-teacher.