Relationship Status: It's Complicated

February 9, 2018


Relationships are important and so are our roles in those relationships.

Communities are built on a variety of roles. In our communities we are politicians, business owners, physicians, engineers, producers, and consumers. These roles allow us to feel independent and purposeful.

Roles connect us all as a community.

Roles assume connections and contributions, as well as set boundaries and limitations. They are necessary so that boundaries are respected, and we understand where our resources lie.

Educational communities deserve the same type of structure. Not necessarily to rise above others or to set oneself apart, but rather to allow the community to understand what each person contributes and what is to be expected of all the members. When you understand the shape of a piece, you can begin to understand where that piece fits in the puzzle.

When it comes to delivering instruction, it is important to define your role and relationship with your audience. It tells your audience how they can begin to fit you into their learning landscape.

There are a multitude of personas that an instructor can assume. The following personas, in my opinion, are the most common.

The Lecturer.

The lecturer has the most structured way of delivering educational materials. They are equipped with a predetermined agenda, organized materials, and a willingness to stand in front of a group and speak authoritatively about the topic at hand. The lecturer will rarely go off-script and will stay within the time limit for instruction.

The Coach.

The coach seeks to establish themselves as a motivational figure. You can expect them to have a structured plan of attack. Their instruction is for specific and immediate goals. They come with a ‘play book’ of knowledge, but they are more fluid with their delivery. The coach will most likely provide multiple options for coming to the same conclusion or result.

The Mentor.

The mentor anticipates a long relationship with their audience and they are willing to stick around for as long as it takes. They have experience and seniority on their side. Instead of offering strict guidelines, they offer examples, stories, and words of encouragement.

The Guru.

The guru is more concerned with the journey than the destination. They intentionally deliver thought-provoking instruction so that the student can derive their own meaning. Their anticipated learning objectives are more reflective and less structured. Gurus will guide students on their path, but will not necessarily point them in which direction to go.

Regardless of which role you take, it is essential that you make your position known.

Each of these roles require drastically different expectations and therefore it is key that you take consistent steps to make sure that you maintain your role.

Clearly communicate and lead in a manner that aligns with that role.

If you establish yourself as a guru and build your instruction as a coach, signals will be crossed and your audience will be left scratching their heads. You can’t say you are a physician and start building the community a bridge. Your community will be stronger because of how you share your contributions.

In a nutshell, in order to cultivate a powerful and impactful online learning experience, ensure that you establish your role and align it to your contribution.

What role are you seeking to communicate and share with your audience?

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