Perceptions of some teachers about the similarities and/or differences in teaching online versus in a classroom environment /
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The introduction of computer and communications technology, and particularly the internet, into education has opened up some new possibilities for teaching and learning. Courses designed and delivered in an online environment offer the possibility of highly interactive and individually focussed teaching and learning experiences. However, online courses also present new challenges for both teachers and students. A qualitative study was conducted to explore teachers' perceptions about the similarities and differences in teaching in the online and face-to-face (F2F) environments. Focus group discussions were held with 5 teachers; 2 teachers were interviewed in depth. The participants, 3 female and 2 male, were full-time teachers from a large College of Applied Arts & Technology in southern Ontario. Each of them had over 10 years of F2F teaching experience and each had been involved in the development and teaching of at least one online course. i - -; The study focussed on how teaching in the online environment compares with teaching in the F2F environment, what roles teachers and students adopt in each setting, what learning communities mean online and F2F and how they are developed, and how institutional policies, procedures, and infrastructure affect teaching and learning F2F and online. This study was emic in nature, that is the teachers' words determine the themes identified throughout the study. The factors identified as affecting teaching in an online environment included teacher issues such as course design, motivation to teach online, teaching style, role, characteristics or skills, and strategies. Student issues as perceived by the teachers included learning styles, role, and characteristics or skills. As well, technology issues such as a reliable infrastructure, clear role and responsibilities for maintaining the infrastructure, support, and multimedia capability affected teaching online. Finally, administrative policies and procedures, including teacher selection and training, registration and scheduling procedures, intellectual property and workload policies, and the development and communication of a comprehensive strategic plan were found to impact on teaching online. The teachers shared some of the benefits they perceived about teaching online as well as some of the challenges they had faced and challenges they perceived students had faced online. Overall, the teachers feh that there were more similarities than differences in teaching between the two environments, with the main differences being the change from F2F verbal interactions involving body language to online written interactions without body language cues, and the fundamental reliance on technology in the online environment. These findings support previous research in online teaching and learning, and add teachers' perspectives on the factors that stay the same and the factors that change when moving from a F2F environment to an online environment.