“Online Teacher Support Programs: Mentoring and Coaching Models”


Online Teacher Support Booklet Icon

The North American Council for Online Learning has released a report entitled “Online Teacher Support Programs: Mentoring and Coaching Models.”  The report was written by Karly Wortmann (Iowa State University), Cathy Cavanaugh (University of Florida), Kathryn Kennedy (University of Florida), Yoany Beldarrain (Florida Virtual School), Therese Letourneau (Florida Virtual School), and Vicky Zygouris-Coe (University of Central Florida).

From the introduction:

This document describes the mentoring relationship from the perspectives of several virtual schools that have built mentoring programs to assist their new teachers. Each school’s mentoring program is unique and has been designed specifically for the school’s staff, size, and instructional approach. These schools have learned that a successful mentoring program is key in developing effective novice virtual school teachers and in supporting the continued growth of experienced virtual school teachers. Mentoring programs are still new to virtual schools, but they may also be a factor in teacher retention. In any case, an effective mentoring program will benefit the mentee through development of knowledge and skills, the mentor through development of leadership and communication capabilities, and the school through the sharing of ideas and expertise.

The report looks at these types of mentoring:

  • Task-based mentoring focuses on an individual’s short-term need to improve a skill or acquire knowledge in order to fulfill a new role. ƒ
  • Experience-based mentoring pairs an individual, who is new to an organization or a role, with a mentor who has experience in that role. ƒ Just-in-time mentoring matches mentors with individuals who have an unanticipated need for assistance. ƒ
  • One-to-one mentoring centers on a single mentor working with a single mentee ƒ
  • Team mentoring joins groups of mentors with groups of mentees. ƒ
  • Formal mentoring involves explicit expectations of the mentoring process and/or outcomes by specifying such characteristics as timelines, achievements, progress reporting, benchmarks, and communications formats.

And, the following elements of mentoring programs:

  • Personal and professional reflection ƒ
  • Sharing of expertise to others with common interests ƒ
  • Portfolio development ƒ
  • Learning communities ƒ
  • Professional development planning for both mentor and mentee/protégé ƒ
  • Short-term collaborations through co-teaching or team teaching

The book is available from ERIC here.

“The Method (and Madness) of Evaluating Online Discussion”

Katrina A. Meyer.  “The Method (and Madness) of Evaluating Online Discussions.  The Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, volume 10, number 4 (2006): 83-97.

Abstract: In addressing how to evaluate online discussions, this paper will describe several concepts, tools, or frameworks that have been used in evaluations and discuss differences in approach based on instructor purpose, be it research, assessment, or learning. Then several common problems are described, including use of content analysis, identification of latent content, inadequate training of coders, lack of reliability, and choosing the correct unit of analysis. Two examples are provided of coding decisions made on portions of student discussions; these examples use two different frameworks to elucidate the process and its difficulties. Conclusions focus on the importance of following standard good research or assessment practice and preparing for a time-consuming and often frustrating coding process.

The full article is available for free here.

Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom

Palloff, Rena M., and Keith Pratt. “Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom.”  17th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning.

Abstract: Teaching in cyberspace involves more than taking traditional teaching models and transferring them to a different medium. The use of online distance learning is creating changes in the delivery of education in general. Changes in online distance learning are also occurring rapidly, predominantly in the ways courses are developed and delivered. This paper and session, based on the presenters’ experience of over 7 years of online teaching and their two books, Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace and Lessons from the Cyberspace Classroom, explores best practices in delivering online courses.

The paper is available on the conference website here.

Using Asynchronous Audio Feedback to Enhance Teaching Presence and Students’ Sense of Community

Ice, Phillip, Reagan Curtin, Perry Phillips, and John Wells.  “Using Asynchronous Audio Feedback to Enhance Teaching Presence and Students’ Sense of Community.”  Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, volume 11, number 2 (July 2007): 3-25.

ABSTRACT: This paper reports the findings of a case study in which audio feedback replaced text-based feedback in asynchronous courses. Previous research has demonstrated that participants in online courses can build effective learning communities through text based communication alone. Similarly, it has been demonstrated that instructors for online courses can adequately project immediacy behaviors using text- based communication. However, we believed that the inclusion of an auditory element might strengthen both the sense of community and the instructor’s ability to affect more personalized communication with students. Over the course of one semester, students in this study received a mixture of asynchronous audio and text-based feedback. Our findings revealed extremely high student satisfaction with embedded asynchronous audio feedback as compared to asynchronous text only feedback. Four themes, which accounted for this preference, were culled out in an iterative, inductive analysis of interview data: 1. Audio feedback was perceived to be more effective than text-based feedback for conveying nuance; 2. Audio feedback was associated with feelings of increased involvement and enhanced learning community interactions; 3. Audio feedback was associated with increased retention of content; and 4. Audio feedback was associated with the perception that the instructor cared more about the student. Document analysis revealed that students were three times more likely to apply content for which audio commenting was provided in class projects than was the case for content for which text based commenting was provided. Audio commenting was also found to significantly increase the level at which students applied such content. Implications of this case study and directions for future research are addressed in the discussion and conclusions section of this paper.

The article is available at ERIC for free at this link.

Best Online Instructional Practices: Report of Phase I of An Ongoing Study

Keeton, Morris T. “Best Online Instructional Practices: Report of Phase I of An Ongoing Study.” Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, volume 8, number 2 (April 2004): 75-100.


This study examines how best practices in online instruction are the same as, or different from, best practices in face-to-face (F2F) instruction. The book Effectiveness and Efficiency in Higher Education for Adults [1] summarizes some 20 years of research on best practices in F2F instruction. The bases of comparison are principles from the KS&G material and from Chickering and Gamson’s “seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education” [2]. A reason for making these comparisons is that the rapid growth of online instruction promises that online instruction may become the largest source of ongoing higher education. Not surprisingly, interest in assessing the quality of online offerings has also grown [3, 4, 5, 6]. The question is increasingly raised: Are postsecondary institutions effectively “doing their old job in a new way?” [7]. One way to answer that question is to analyze the online instructional practices of faculty with the aid of research on patterns of instruction, face-to-face and online. This paper is abbreviated from a February 14, 2002 report by Marisa Collett, Morris Keeton and Vivian Shayne of the Institute for Research and Assessment in Higher Education for the Office of Distance Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of Maryland University College.


  1. Keeton, M. Sheckley, B. & Krejci-Griggs, J. Effectiveness and Efficiency in Higher Education for Adults. Council on Adult and Experiential Learning. Chicago: Kendall-Hunt, 2002.
  2. Chickering, A. W. & Gamson, Z. Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Racine, WI: The Johnson Foundation, 1987.
  3. Bonk, C. J. Online Teaching in an Online World. 2001.
    Available: http://www.publicationshare.com/docs/faculty_survey_report.pdf.
  4. Bonk, C. J. & Wisher, R. A. Applying Collaborative and E-learning Tools to Military Distance Learning: A Research Framework. (Technical Report #1107). Alexandria, VA: U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, 2000. http://www.publicationshare.com/docs/Dist.Learn(Wisher).pdf.
  5. Phipps, R. & Merisotis, J. What’s the Difference? A Review of Contemporary Research on the Effectiveness of Distance Learning in Higher Education. Washington, D.C.: The Institute for Higher Education Policy, 1999.
  6. Russell, T. L. The “No Significant Difference Phenomenon.” Chapel Hill, NC: Office of Instructional Telecommunications, North Carolina University, 1999.
    Available: http://cudateleeducation.nb.ca/nosignificantdifference/.
  7. Shea, C. Taking Classes to the Masses. The Washington Post Magazine, 24–25, 28–33. September 16, 2001.

The article is available here.

Or, here: v8n2_keeton_1

Learning Effectiveness Online: What the Research Tells Us, Karen Swan

Karen Swan.  “Learning Effectiveness Online: What the Research Tells Us,” in J. Bourne and J.C. Moore, eds., Elements of  Quality Online Education, Practice and Direction (Needham, MA: Sloan Center for Online Education, 2003): 13-35.

Abstract: This paper reviews the literature on the learning effectiveness of asynchronous online environments. It looks beyond the commonly accepted findings of no significant differences in learning outcomes between online and traditional courses to examine that literature in terms of forms of interactivity, a feature of online environments that might matter or be made to matter in learning. It thus explores and is organized according to learner interactions with course content, student interactions with instructors, and interactions among classmates in online course environments. More recent notions of interactions with computer and course interfaces and virtual interaction are also briefly examined. The chapter concludes with a summary of what the research tells us and its for implications online learning.

The chapter is available here, or Swan, Learning Effectiveness Online.