Faculty Presence in an Online Course

When online courses were first offered, there was a lot of concern that faculty would be replaced by the technology. But instead, we continue to find that the instructor plays just as important a role in the online environment as she or he does in the classroom.

One of the challenges though is how the instructor creates and maintains a sense of presence in the online course.  In the classroom, the instructor’s  physical presence is taken as a given.  A smile, laugh, raised eyebrow or look of confusion provides an opportunity for the instructor to engage and adapt the instructional approach as needed.  In the online environment this isn’t available.  This doesn’t however mean that creating a presence is not possible.  In his article, Creating a Sense of Instructor Presence in the Online Classroom on the Faculty Focus website, Rob Kelly divides this presence into 3 categories:

  1. Persona—This consists of the instructor’s personality, teaching style, and interests—all the characteristics that go into the students’ impression of the instructor.
  2. Social—This refers to the connections instructors make with the students and those that students make with each other to build a learning community.
  3. Instructional—This is the role the instructor plays in guiding students through the learning process.

When considering your own instructor presence, there are strategies you can implement in both the course design process and when the course goes live that don’t require you to be available 24×7.  Here are a few examples.

During the course design and development process:

  • Include meaningful module overviews and/or videos that connect the previous module topics to the current module (Read more)
  • Incorporate instructor notes, presentations or videos explaining difficult concepts
  • Update your bio in your Moodle profile  (Read more)
  • Use Twitter for live updates on your course homepage (Read more)
  • Reach out to the GSC Instructional Design Team for ideas appropriate for your course (Read more)

Once the course goes live:

  • Make periodic weekly announcements highlighting discussion threads of interest or guidance on upcoming assignments
  • Provide timely feedback on assignments
  • Create a discussion response strategy that doesn’t require responding to every post (Read more)
  • Use videos in the discussion forum (Read more)
  • Reach out to the GSC Instructional Design Team for ideas appropriate for your course (Read more)

While technology in and by itself does not create presence or better learning for that matter, when used right it can facilitate learning especially in an online environment. Here’s a brief article which includes some ideas used by other faculty:

Technology that improves instructor presence in Online Courses (From the Online Learning Consortium)

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