Direct Instruction

Topic Progress:

It is important to resist the urge to equate the idea of ‘direct instruction’ with ‘lecturing’. Often, distance educators get caught up in trying to replicate a face-to-face learning experience in an online environment. This is especially difficult and problematic in an asynchronous online environment.

Efforts to replicate the classroom regularly lead to students sitting through hours of ‘talking head’ video lectures where the temptation to not pay attention is even greater than in a classroom.

However, there are certainly situations that require the direct intervention of faculty in a learning activity. Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes and Garrison1 refer to direct instruction as ‘scholarly leadership’ to assist students in meeting learning outcomes in a timely manner.

At times, this may require intervention to maintain social cohesion, open communication, and the critical inquiry process. Issues may arise that make it difficult for students to collaborate with each other or to connect with experts outside the course environment. Or it may be that students’ life circumstances create frustration that affects the ability of the student to engage in scholarly inquiry.

At other times, students need the

expertise of an experienced and responsible teacher who can identify the ideas and concepts worthy of study, provide the conceptual order, organize learning activities, guide the discourse, offer additional sources of information, diagnose misconceptions, and interject when required2 (p. 60).

That being said, it is important for faculty to maintain a balance between too much and too little involvement. Interventions should be reserved for situations that involve significant issues that prevent or arrest timely development. The reason for this is to allow learners to grow in their ability to metacognitively monitor and control their own learning. This reflective process is the primary vehicle for learning in asynchronous learning environments and must not be short-circuited.


  1. Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. (2013). Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca: AU Press. Retrieved from
  2. Garrison, D. R. (2011). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.