Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name



Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Ingrid Guerra-Lopez






May 2014

Advisor: Dr. Ingrid Guerra-Lopez

Major: Instructional Technology

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy

Distance learning programs in higher education are evolving into the preferred model for how we educate learners in the 21st century. The traditional role of an instructor was focused on creating an effective learning environment based in a physical classroom setting. In this decade, institutions are educating and training online instructors to a virtual online asynchronous learning environment. Online programs based in higher education, specifically those focused on adult learners, are transforming how and why we educate our communities. This study will focus on online instructors who facilitate in an asynchronous learning environment populated by adult learners who attend higher-education institutions. Institutions are asking how we can transition instructors into the role of constructivist facilitators of knowledge while building their competencies as effective online instructors. This question is explored by defining the criteria for success based on core and functional (unique) competencies focused on creating a stimulating and engaging online learning environment. This research study will examine the role of an online instructor, explore current competency models, and define the unique (constructivist) competencies needed for success as an online instructor. Eventually, a certification program is needed that supports the competency development of an online instructor. This certification structure will also support how institutions (colleges as well as profit and nonprofit universities) hire, evaluate, and rank the performance of online instructors using the proposed constructivist competency model. As higher-education institutions focus on retention of the adult learner population, a shift must occur in the performance standards required of online instructors. These performance standards must be clearly defined and communicated by an institution if it is to remain competitive in the industry of delivering online courses. The proposed constructivist competency model in this study will establish the performance standards for measuring an effective online learning course. This constructivist competency model will also ensure that the next generation of online instructors has the tools and resources needed to create a vibrant and engaging online learning environment. As the online learning community expands to include profit institutions, business and industry, collaborative communities, online universities, local community colleges, local high schools, and government organizations, there is an increasing need to define how we create a quality online learning experience for our learners. The learner is demanding that we, as a learning community, provide them with the best tools, resources, and knowledge to prepare them for the real world. This learning community is challenged to inspire, develop, and cultivate the talents of our learners by ensuring they have the best online learning experience. Any shortcuts would hinder the development and ability of our future generation to compete within a global society. As (online) instructors, our purpose is to ensure that we prepare our learners with the opportunity to compete at the local, international, and global levels. Our desire should be to continue to improve our own skills through professional development opportunities, workshops, coaching, mentoring, and acknowledging the need for certification standards. These certification standards would give instructors the opportunity to invest in their own development by achieving recognized standards with financial incentives for creating a quality online learning experience. Accreditation in the field of online learning is needed to ensure that instructors are properly trained, are hired according to relevant standards and competencies, receive ongoing career development, practice consistent standards, and are held accountable for providing a quality online experience for learners. If we (i.e., organizations, institutions, universities) fail to implement a consistent set of standards, we provide a disservice to our learners by not ensuring that the same or higher standards required in a traditional classroom are applied in an online course.

Keywords: constructivist, online learning, online instructor, competencies