The Virtual Professor

Submitted by Josephine Kamera RN, EdD

Tags: college nursing faculty online learning students teaching virtual learning virtual professor

The Virtual Professor

Share Article:

Today many colleges are increasingly using online approach to provide effective and easily accessible education to attract students from wide geographic areas and increase enrollment (Phillips, Shaw, Sullivan, & Johnson, 2010). Distance and on line learning is becoming very popular. With the use of a computer, teachers and students are able to communicate from every corner of the world. E-learning emphasizes the use of the Internet to support class discussions and activities (Coppola, Hiltz, & Rotter, 2002). Online teaching has tremendously transformed the way of student teacher interaction. The online approach has created a virtual professor and a virtual student. The term virtual can have many meanings. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (2013) defines virtual as occurring or existing primarily online Therefore online education in essence connects two entities that exist on computer. This approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. This paper will examine advantages and disadvantages of virtual teaching and learning.

Advantages of Virtual Teaching and Learning

On line learning has arguably its own tremendous advantages. Online classes offer convenience. Both the professor and student are able to achieve their goals in the comfort of their homes. There is no traveling involved going to classes; therefore it is cost and time effective. On line learning is self-paced, and the student choose own schedule. While doing course work on the computer, students can be hooked into social networking sites while texting multiple people at a time (Roberts & Hunter, 2011). Students are able to structure their lives balancing school, work and other responsibilities. There is no structured time required to spend on a certain topic since there is no supervision by the teacher. Therefore online learning offers freedom.

Through discussions and forums, students and teacher interact in a virtual community web-based setting designed to enhance learning through situations and context (Giddens & Walsh, 2010). In this environment, the virtual professor does not necessarily have to be there while the students do the talking (Coppola et al., 2002). The virtual professor is there for leading discussion, and mentoring more than anything else, and that's the beauty of it (Coppola et al., 2002).
Discussions stimulate interaction. Every student will be forced to participate, whereas in face-to-face environment few students might participate. Even those students, who are shy or reluctant to talk in a roomful of people, can interact through on line discussion (Filer, 2010). Another advantage is that students learn how to express themselves in writing. Working individually also encourages thinking and enhances learning.

Virtual teaching and learning can be isolating, however on line communication has helped in connecting nursing disciplines who share same interest (Egerton, McConnell, Corazzini, Kitzmiller, & Crook, 2010). The internet is providing networking opportunities for nurse clinicians and educators who otherwise may feel isolated (Egerton et al., 2010). Even the virtual professor needs to share with other professors with the same experiences.

Disadvantages of Virtual Teaching and Learning

On line teaching has had a great impact in nursing education. In particular the introduction of web based instruction has challenged and eventually altered the responsibilities of nurse faculty (Johnson 2008). Most nurse educators were accustomed and comfortable with traditionally face-to-face instruction. With transition to teaching in an online environment, even seasoned faculty members found themselves in the position of novice (Johnson 2008). Most had to learn how to deliver information through the web. Lack of technological skills is a barrier to teaching online courses.

Virtual learning is non-verbal communication. There are no visual aspects of feelings, humor, body language or energy. For the most part on line communication becomes formal. According to Coppolla et al. the process of writing down everything you think can be challenging (2002). In this environment both teacher and student has to be clear and concise in writing to achieve clear communication.

In virtual learning, the computer is the basic mode of communication. Computer glitches can disrupt student and teacher interaction. Periodically blackboard systems go down for maintenance preventing students from submitting assignments and meet deadlines. Other drawbacks include student frustration on completing assignments or projects without direct supervision of the teacher. In face-to-face traditional classroom, students receive spontaneous response from the teacher, but in a virtual classroom, students need to wait to get a response. The waiting period could be an advantage to the virtual professor because it gives more time to think about what the students are saying before responding to them (Coppolla et al., 2002).

Time management can be a problem when students procrastinate to complete the assignments and fail to meet the deadlines. Pressure from other responsibilities, may leave little or no time for the student to devote to schoolwork. Students may spend more time focusing on a subject they do not understand thus neglecting the other subjects. There is a risk of students hiding from the virtual environment unless periodic communication is required. Some virtual professors find themselves intentionally developing relationships with students because both student and professor are so isolated from each other (Johnson 2008). Accomplishing group projects may be difficulty because the students do not have direct verbal communication with the other group members.


Advancement in technology has led to the explosion of virtual teaching and learning. Distance and on line learning is now very popular. An increased number of colleges are offering on line degrees to increase enrollment. On line learning has its own advantages and disadvantages. To both teacher and student, the on line approach offers a relaxed environment and self-paced learning. On line learning is cost and time effective. There are no hustles of commuting to go to class. However this has removed the traditional face-to-face setting where feelings, humor, body language or energy were shared.

The virtual professor is constantly required to monitor and supervise students who are not visible in a virtual learning community. Communication is done primarily through online; therefore both virtual students and virtual professors have a need to express themselves clearly in writing to achieve clear communication. Therefore successful virtual teaching and learning requires continuous monitoring, clear communication and adjustments from both student and professor.


  1. Coppola, N. W., Hiltz, S. R., & Rotter, N. G (2002). Becoming a Virtual Professor: Pedagogical
    Roles and Asynchronous Learning Networks. Journal Of Management Information
    Systems, 18(4), 169-189.
  2. Egerton, E. O., McConnell, E. S., Corazzini, K., Kitzmiller, R. R., & Crook, J. O. (2010). Birds 
    of a feather: introducing a virtual learning community for geriatric nurse educators.
    Journal Of Continuing Education In Nursing, 41(5), 203-208. doi: 10.3928/00220124-
  3. Filer, D. (2010). Everyone's Answering: Using Technology to Increase Classroom Participation. Nursing Education Perspectives, 31(4), 247-250. 
    Giddens, J. F., & Walsh, M. (2010). Collaborating across the pond: the diffusion of virtual
    communities for nursing education. The Journal Of Nursing Education, 49(8), 449-454.
    doi: 10.3928/01484834-20100430-04
  4. Johnson, A. E. (2008). A nursing faculty's transition to teaching online. Nursing Education Perspectives, 29(1), 17-22. 
    Phillips, B., Shaw, R. J., Sullivan, D. T., & Johnson, C. (2010). Using virtual environments to
    enhance nursing distance education. Creative Nursing, 16(3), 132-135.
  5. Roberts, S., & Hunter, D. (2011) New Library, New Librarian, New Student: Using LibGuides to 
    reach the virtual student. Journal Of Library & Information Services in Distance
    Learning, 5(1-2), 67-75. doi: 10.1080/1533290X.2011.570552