BE VOCAL: Characteristics of Successful Online Instructors

John R. Savery
The University of Akron


While classroom teaching and management strategies are well documented, the online learning environment presents different challenges and benefits. Teaching in an online environment requires a special set of teaching skills since many of the strategies and tactics associated with best teaching practices are somewhat constrained by the primarily text-based environment. The VOCAL approach summarizes the key characteristics that a master instructor utilizes to be effective in an online environment. VOCAL is an acronym for Visible, Organized, Compassionate, Analytical and Leader-by-example. The ability of the teacher to effectively infuse these characteristics into their instructional practice – to BE VOCAL - will promote a supportive, challenging, constructive, rigorous and effective instructional environment. Instructors who practice a VOCAL approach will have more productive learning environments, fewer management problems and more positive learning experiences with their students.

About the Author(s)...

John R. Savery is Assistant Professor at The University of Akron. He has written widely on the topics of student ownership for learning and the design characteristics of effective instructional environments. Since graduating from Indiana University in 1996, he has been teaching courses in a variety of formats from small group seminars with graduate students to large undergraduate classes with web-enhanced/online components to entirely video-based distance learning. He developed and teaches an online course (Strategies for Online Teaching) to prepare graduate students at The University of Akron to be successful instructors in an online format. The recursive nature of the course brought into sharp relief the critical characteristics of effective online teaching and led to the development of the VOCAL characteristics. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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