Experiences of Graduate-level Faculty Regarding Interaction in Online Courses



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The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the experiences of instructors related to student interaction in online graduate courses. This in-depth investigation of the experiences and perceptions of online, graduate-level instructors revealed the nature of various types of interaction and some of the barriers to interaction in their courses. Utilizing Moustakas’s phenomenological design, criterion sampling and reputational sampling techniques were used to nominate 12 online, graduate-level instructors to participate. Of those 12 nominees, eight instructors were available and willing to participate in individual interviews.

Three major themes emerged from the data. One of the perceived barriers to interaction in online, graduate-level courses was the lack of training of instructors for online teaching. Learning to teach online required taking personal initiative for these instructors. The role of instructors as facilitators of online courses was described as encompassing the intentional design of all aspects of the class and actively teaching the class and interacting with students. These instructors also described the time requirements of teaching online. They emphasized how much more time is required to teach online versus to teach face-to-face. Teaching online was also described as “invisible labor” when contrasted with teaching face-to-face.

The rich description of current practices for facilitating interaction in online, graduate-level courses gained from this study provided insight to benefit both instructors and program administrators. Instructors should allow for the extra preparation and teaching time required by online courses. Program administrators should advocate for specialized instruction for online faculty, who need training focused on available online tools, how to create interaction in online environments, and appropriate online workloads. Program administrators should also advocate for an institutional office of online instruction that houses instructional designers to assist faculty. Program administrators must also acknowledge the “invisible labor” of online instruction and find ways to honor the additional time required to teach effective online courses. The online, graduate-level instructors in this study described competing demands for their time and a lack of training as barriers to interaction. Ultimately, these instructors invested their time and effort into designing effective courses, actively teaching those courses, and interacting with their students.



Online, Distance learning, Graduate education, Graduate-level, Interaction, Phenomenology, Qualitative research, Moore’s theory of transactional distance