What Makes An Online Instructor Good?


What Makes an Online Instructor Good?

by Lisa M. Beeson, MACI

 A highly qualified, effective online instructor is not merely someone who is an expert in the subject matter (or “SME”) or someone who is an eLearning technology guru.

 In their book, Handbook of Human Performance Technology, the authors state that learning outcomes are a function of instructional methods rather than delivery media. They further assert classroom instruction can be as effective as computer based training (CBT), provided the delivery system uses the appropriate instructional methods.

 As instructional designers we cannot rely on the technology to carry the instruction. Neither can we rely on our knowledge of a subject to make the course dynamic and motivating to the learners.

 It has to be a well-thought out, lucid, and even artful amalgamation of both. A good instructional designer is part learning technology guru, part corporate soft-skills trainer (a la Tony Robbins), part “everyone’s favorite” school teacher, and part learning design expert with a dash of comedian and a sprinkling of cheerleader.

 This is humorous, yes, but think about the core qualities of each and it makes sense.

  • The learning technology guru stays current on trends and techniques to enhance the aesthetics of the learning program, always searching for new activities or interactions that will help drive the instruction and motivate the learner.
  • The corporate soft-skills trainer is a student of human psychology and always has a bag of tricks to do such things as build commitment, help students recognize and solve problems, and provide support without removing responsibility.
  • Everyone’s favorite school teacher is the one who puts in more than the required hours, whose love for the learners and the learning experience is evident in their dedication.
  • The learning design expert is confident in their understanding of what works and knows how to challenge traditions to push the designs ever forward to make the learning truly experiential in nature.
  • The comedian knows not just how to make us laugh, but how to build emotion and motivate us to stay in our seats to the end of the show so we don’t miss a beat.
  • And the cheerleader…ever encouraging and building enthusiasm.



Stolovitch, Harold D. and Keeps, Erica J. Handbook of Human Performance Technology. Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Lisa M. Menke is the Associate Dean for Online Instruction at York College of Nebraska. Lisa is an avid fan innovation in learning design and transmedia storytelling. Lisa holds a graduate degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a graduate certificate in  online course development. Lisa and her family live in York, Nebraska.


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