Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 18 Number 4 2002 pp. 169-189

Becoming a Virtual Professor: Pedagogical Roles and Asynchronous Learning Networks

Coppola, Nancy Walters, Hiltz, Starr Roxanne, and Rotter, Naomi G

ABSTRACT: Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALN) are a form of "e-learning" that emphasizes the use of the Internet to support class discussions and activities. This paper presents a qualitative study of role changes that occur when faculty become online or "virtual" professors. In 20 semi-structured interviews of faculty, coded with pattern analysis software, the authors captured role changes enacted by instructors in ALN settings--cognitive roles, affective roles, and managerial roles. The cognitive role, which relates to mental processes of learning, information storage, and thinking, shifts to one of deeper cognitive complexity. The affective role, which relates to influencing the relationships between students, the instructor, and the classroom atmosphere, required faculty to find new tools to express emotion, yet they found the relationships with students more intimate. The managerial role, which deals with class and course management, requires grater attention to detail, more structure, and additional student monitoring. Overall, faculty reported a change in their teaching persona, toward more precision in their presentation of materials and instruction, combined with a shift to a more Socratic pedagogy, emphasizing multilogues with students. The main sources of frustration and of fulfillment of the virtual professor is explored.

Key words and phrases: affective role, asynchronous learning networks, cognitive role, e-learning, managerial roles, role theory