Important Pedagogical Elements for Online Instruction

Concurrent Session 8

Brief Abstract

An exploratory study examined online faculty’s perception of the most valued pedagogical elements that support effective online teaching and learning.  Results from faculty focus groups revealed a number of key themes: Personalization, Faculty Efficiency, Instructor Presence, Making Connections, Immediacy and Content Development. The presentation will review the results of the focus groups and provide research-driven recommendations for maximizing instructor efficiency AND effectiveness while incorporating unique pedagogical elements.  


John Steele is a Associate Professor who teaches Critical Thinking, University Introduction, and Psychology classes at Grand Canyon University. He is a certified K-12 School Counselor, certified elementary teacher, and has taught Adjunct Education at Phoenix Community College and at GCU. He is a GCU Alum¬nus, with a Master’s in Education in School Counseling and a Master’s of Science in Psychology. John is currently pursuing his doctoral degree in General Psychology with an emphasis in Integrating Technology, Learning, and Psychology at GCU. John’s professional interests include research in online learning and academic integrity.
Rick Holbeck has been in education for over20 years at all levels from kindergarten to higher education. He is currently the executive director of online full time faculty at Grand Canyon University, and also teaches courses for the College of Education. Rick has presented at several regional, national, and international conferences where the focus has been on Classroom Assessment Techniques, technology, faculty workloads, and hybrid peer review for journal publication. Rick is currently the editor of the Journal of Instructional Research. Rick is currently a doctoral learner in Higher Educational Leadership at Grand Canyon University.
B. Jean Mandernach, Ph.D. is Executive Director of the Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching at Grand Canyon University. Her research focuses on enhancing student learning in the online classroom through innovative instructional and assessment strategies. In addition, she has interests in the development of effective faculty evaluation models, perception of online degrees, and faculty workload considerations. Jean received her B.S. in comprehensive psychology from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, an M.S. in experimental psychology from Western Illinois University and Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Extended Abstract


Learning in online courses differs from the traditional learning environment being that there can be a lack of physical presence between students and instructors (Fallon, 2011). The lack of physical presence can lead to students feeling a lack of connection to their instructors, classmates, and even the university. The primary themes of the Community of Inquiry’s (COI) three domains of social, cognitive, and teaching presences allow for instructors to engage students with different online pedagogy (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). Instructors often face many different constraints to implementing online pedagogy such as the learning management system, time, pre-developed content, and cognitive load. Thus, the pedagogical elements that online instructors include in the classroom can play a vital role in the engagement, learning, and connection with students.

Purpose and description of the study and presentation

The purpose of the study was to investigate the pedagogical elements that are most impactful in the online classroom. This qualitative study used a single focus group of online full time faculty who were purposefully chosen as the sample based on their history of high quality teaching. The researchers created a list of elements that were thought to be the most common and impactful, but chose to ask open-ended questions to explore themes related to impactful teaching in the online classroom.

The interactive discovery session will provide the audience with a quick overview and summary of findings. Afterward, presenters will open up a question and answer session to delve into results and ideas of most interest to those attending. The session will focus on elements identified by online full time faculty that they found to be the most impactful on student learning. Findings from the study can be used to guide best practices in online instruction and further use of best practices that are most impactful to student learning.

Description of the presentation

This interactive discovery session will present findings regarding part-one of a three-part survey that was administered during a focus group to full-time online faculty members. The session will focus on how instructors can easily the online learning environment for students by adding pedagogical elements. It will also discuss how online instructors can incorporate critical pedagogical elements that can meet student needs and increase faculty efficiency.


Falloon, G. (2011). Making the connection: Moore’s Theory of Transactional Distance and its relevance to the use of a virtual classroom in postgraduate online teacher education. Journal of Research On Technology in Education International Society For Technology in Education, 43(3), 187-209.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105.