Picture a traditional, face to face classroom. At each class session, the instructor posts the reading assignment, questions to answer and their email to use if anyone has any questions but was not physically in the classroom. How engaging is that? Not much by almost anyone’s estimation. Yet this is sometimes not uncommon in an online learning environment.
Parker Palmer reminds us that “Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness…the place where everyone’s intellect, emotion and spirit converge.” In his article “E-Personality: The Fusion of IT and Pedagogical Technique” author Peter Chepya introduces the concept of “companionability and presence… the cumulative effect creates an atmosphere [he calls] presence learning.” When an instructor facilitates connectedness combined with their presence in an online class, one can expect positive results:
The effectiveness of instructor presence and facilitating meaningful, engaging online discussions is supported by research. Ryan and Deci suggest that basic learner motivation stems from an innate need to feel connected, feel authentic, and have the capacity to make free choices (Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Directions and New Directions, 2000). Brains scans have shown that when new learning is readily comprehensible (i.e. it makes sense to the learner) and can be connected to past experience (meaning), there is substantially more cerebral activity followed by dramatically improved retention” (Macquire, Firth & Morris as cited by Sousa, 2011). “Of the two criteria, meaning has greater impact on the probability that the new information will be stored” (Sousa, 2011).
Instructor presence in online learning – is not optional, it is essential.
Chepya, P. (2005). E-Personality: The Fusion of IT and Pedagogical Technique. Retrieved from EDUCAUSE Review Online: https://www.educause.edu/ero/article/e-personality-fusion-it-and-pedagogical-technique
Palmer, P. (2007). The Courage to Teach. Jossey-Bass.
Ryan, R., & Deci, E. (2000). Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations. Contemporary Educational Psychology 25, pp. 54 – 67.
Sousa, D. (2006). How the Brain Learns. Corwin Press : Thousand Oaks, CA.