Author Biography

Michelle Vaughan is an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She teaches courses in curriculum design, action research, and school reform. Her scholarship explores teacher growth and change through action research, online learning, and the integration of technology into practice. She serves as the graduate program coordinator for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Recently, she was awarded the Excellence in eLearning Faculty Award (2016) from the Center for eLearning at Florida Atlantic University, the Innovation in Higher Education award from the Florida Distance Learning Association (2017) and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Center for Online and Continuing Education (2019).


Within the context of online learning, there are challenges presented by the virtual medium that may lead to diminished experiences in learning. Without a physical connection or the ability to feel the support from your teacher, online students can be left isolated, and the pedagogy can easily slip into an execution of tasks as opposed to a pedagogy of care. My inquiry into the online graduate student experience began with a survey to understand how online graduate students describe their experiences as an online learner and their relationships with their instructors. A thematic analysis of their responses revealed themes regarding the relationship between the instructor and student and the role of communication in the quality of that relationship. To further explore these themes, an action research cycle was then completed within my own teaching to initiate some of the pedagogical ideas shared by graduate students. Results from initial survey and the resulting action research cycle are shared and discussed.