Traits of a Successful Online Teacher

Last week, I had the good fortune of stumbling onto John Savery’s article titled “BE VOCAL: Characteristics of Successful Online Instructors” in which he talks about the unique challenges facing teachers who are working with students in the online environment.

Savery uses the acronym VOCAL to emphasize five specific traits that a successful online teacher must possess. I created the visual below pairing each of his traits–visible, organized, caring and compassionate, analytical, and leader by example–with specific behaviors. I hope this will serve as a guide for educators who are navigating their new roles as online teachers.

Savery believes that teachers who demonstrate these characteristics in their work with students online are more likely to create a productive and positive learning environment and deal with fewer management issues.

Savery, J. R. (2005). BE VOCAL: Characteristics of successful online instructors. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 4(2), 141-152.

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3 Responses to Traits of a Successful Online Teacher

  1. Richard Lynas says:

    No disrespect – but these criteria, while certainly relevant – do not seem all that different to me than the criteria for any good teacher, online or face-to-face. The challenge, for me, is to be able to establish and maintain the levels of mutual trust and respect that lie at the heart of any productive pupil-teacher relationship. I have no problems, apart from occasional technological blips, in maintaining trust and mutual respect with online students where it already exists. Establishing such mutual trust and respect online from scratch is certainly more of a challenge – but a challenge that can be overcome if I apply the principles of good practice that I do with my face-to-face students.

    • Hi Richard,

      I agree that these are important traits for all teachers to possess. However, I think it is challenging for teachers who have traditionally taught face-to-face to think about what these characteristics look like online. What does it look like to be “visible” online? What behaviors can help a teacher be more visible in the online environment? I hope the specific examples help provide some clarity for teachers navigating this new learning landscape.

      Take care.

  2. Karen Carroll says:

    Thank you for making this quick visual! Of course these are the same traits we have in the classroom, but this will be different in many ways.

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