Volume 9, Issue 3, Winter 2010

Editors of JIOL comments for special issue

The Journal of Interactive Online Learning proudly celebrates its 8th anniversary year with this special November Editor’s Choice JIOL issue, which features 4 articles for reprint in this special edition. We believe each of these articles continue to further knowledge and understanding of research in emerging and interactive technologies in online education, continuing goals of our journal.

From our Fall, 2005 issue, John Savery’s article, Be VOCAL: Characteristics of Successful Online Instructors features the acronym VOCAL, (Visible, Organized, Compassionate, Analytical, and Leader-by example). The acronym provides a framework for online instructors to help infuse characteristics and implement strategies for a more effective instructional environment.

In the Winter, 2006 issue, JIOL published J. Donovan, C. Mader, and J. Shinsky’s article, Constructive Student Feedback: Online vs. Traditional Course Evaluations. Course evaluations and the format through which they are conducted continue to be issues on our college campuses. This article examines both paper and online evaluations and offers several conclusions and recommendations.

In Spring, 2008, the study, Lessons Learned from Michigan Virtual School Teachers, by authors M. DiPietro, R. Ferdig, E. Black, and M. Preston was published. Virtual school continues to grow in America; this paper offers best practices of virtual school teaching and implications for policy, research, and practice which could be re-visited today.

And, finally from our Winter, 2008 issue, JIOL published Omiunota Nelly Ukpokodu’s article, Teachers Reflections on Pedagogies that Enhance Learning in an Online Course on Teaching for Equity and Social Justice. This article investigates and reports on relationships of online instructor-student and student-student interaction as well as the building of rigor and relevance into an online course, important discourses to re-visit as teachers pedagogically prepare online courses.

The JIOL editors believe each of these articles is worthy of re-printing and consideration as researchers continue to explore these issues.

Cynthia S. Sunal
JIOL Executive Editor

Vivian H. Wright
Michael Odell
JIOL Co-Editors

Jason T. Abbitt
JIOL Managing Editor

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.

Constructive Student Feedback: Online vs. Traditional Course Evaluations

Judy Donovan
Georgia College and State University

Cynthia E. Mader
John Shinsky
Grand Valley State University


Substantial efforts have been made recently to compare the effectiveness of traditional course formats to alternative formats (most often, online delivery compared to traditional on-site delivery). This study examines, not the delivery format but rather the evaluation format. It compares traditional paper and pencil methods for course evaluation with electronic methods. Eleven instructors took part in the study. Each instructor taught two sections of the same course; at the end, one course received an online course evaluation, the other a traditional pencil and paper evaluation. Enrollment in these 22 sections was 519 students. Researchers analyzed open-ended comments as well as quantitative rankings for the course evaluations. Researchers found no significant differences in numerical rankings between the two evaluation formats. However, differences were found in number and length of comments, the ratio of positive to negative comments, and the ratio of formative to summative comments. Students completing faculty evaluations online wrote more comments, and the comments were more often formative (defined as a comment that gave specific reasons for judgment so that the instructor knew what the student was suggesting be kept or changed) in nature.

Best practices in teaching K-12 online: Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers

Meredith DiPietro
Richard E. Ferdig
Erik W. Black
Megan Preston


Virtual schools are rising in popularity and presence. Unfortunately, there is a relative dearth of research related to teaching and learning in virtual schools. Although there are numerous handbooks addressing teaching online, there is little research on successful online teaching in the K-12 arena. Much of the existing research focused on teaching online is rooted in face-to-face content, not focused on content areas, built upon a post-secondary audience, or fails to use data from the teachers themselves to triangulate findings. This article reports on a study of 16 virtual school teachers from the Michigan Virtual School (MVS). It reports on best-practices from the interviews conducted with MVS teachers; and also provides research triangulation for those practices. The paper concludes with implications for policy, research, and practice.

Teachers’ Reflections on Pedagogies that Enhance Learning in an Online Course on Teaching for Equity and Social Justice

Omiunota Nelly Ukpokodu
University of Missouri-Kansas City


This study investigated teachers’ reflective perspectives on pedagogies that enhance learning in an online course on “Teaching for equity and social justice” in a teacher education program. Data were collected from survey, alternative anonymous course assessment, interview, and document analysis. Participants identified threaded discussions, partner-shared learning, course 3Rs (rigor, relevance and relationships), pre-post narrative inquiries and writing reading response papers as critical pedagogies that enhanced their learning in the online course. In this paper, I analyze and discuss the teachers’ reflective perspectives and the construction and implementation of these pedagogies.

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