The coronavirus pandemic mandated unexpected ‘instant transitions’ to remote learning and accelerated student demand for online courses. As a result, colleges and universities in the U.S. and around the world began and have continued to expand their online courses and degree programs. The online learning industry is projected to pass $370 billion by 2026 and one third of post-secondary school administrators indicate they will continue to offer both remote and online course options even after their campuses completely resume offering in-person, face-to-face courses. Students have demonstrated there is an increased demand for online courses as well. A national survey of 1,413 students, registered at U.S. higher education institutions in fall 2020 and spring 2021, said their experiences with learning remotely during the pandemic left them with a positive attitude toward online and hybrid courses. This increased interest calls attention to the need for more scholarly examination of online teaching and learning.
Despite calls for increased research into the contemporary pedagogical challenges and opportunities embedded in online education, research endeavors to date have been scattered across academic disciplines, localized in disciplinary silos, resulting in at least two shortcomings. First, much if not most research on how to enhance online teaching and learning tends to be more useful to particular academic areas of study. While those efforts are valuable to a given discipline, they don’t always address online pedagogical commonalities and challenges that cut across the silos. Second, the results of such studies typically are published in discipline-specific journals, so are not often read by a broader audience of researchers and teachers who might benefit from them. In reality, online education is now ubiquitous across higher education, across disciplines, and across institutional types. To address these two shortcomings, there is a need to engage in more multidisciplinary and international discussions and examinations of online education pedagogy that bridges disciplinary boundaries. Moreover, such scholarship needs to be more abundantly available to a wider audience in an open access format. Enter this collaborative Research Topic jointly hosted by Frontiers in Communication and Frontiers in Education: “Instructional Communication Competence and Instructor Presence: Enhancing Teaching and Learning in the Online Environment.”
The scope, breadth, and depth of contributions to this collection is broad and may include theoretical and reflection essays, as well as empirical and applied studies, using any established methodology. Submissions may focus on but not be limited to themes such as:
– critical challenges inherent in online education and instructional communication related to online pedagogy
– unique opportunities available in the online environment for enhancing teaching and learning
– discipline-specific approaches to online education potentially of value or interest across disciplines
– successful strategies for instructors transitioning from in-seat to online education
– recommendations and best practices for designing and developing online courses
– instructional methods for engaging students in online courses and online course content
– useful approaches to assessing student learning in the online environment.
To further clarify this scope, a tangible example may be useful. Presently, the editors of this Research Topic represent two separate areas of scholarly inquiry: the field of online education that studies a notion referred to as ‘instructor presence,’ and the field of instructional communication that studies the notion of ‘instructor immediacy.’ The substance of this Research Topic has emerged from collaborative discussions of these editors about their approaches to research about presence and immediacy in the online environment.