The concept of presence in teaching builds on the body of work on teaching and learning including Dewey, Chickering and Gamson, and many others studying the psychological and sociological aspects of learning and computer-mediated communication. Several of the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education refer to active presence in the learning environment. For example, good practice:
- Encourages student-faculty contact through introductions, announcements, online office hours, and prompt response to student questions and concerns
- Encourages cooperation among students through all-class or small-group discussions and well-supported group work using both asynchronous and synchronous collaboration technology
- Encourages active learning
- Gives prompt feedback, including both summative feedback and actionable formative feedback
- Provides clear instructions regarding due dates and participation emphasizing the need to spend as much (or more) time on an online class as an in-person class. At the same time, be reasonable in your expectations regarding the quantity of reading and work within any given time frame.
- Provides clear expectations for student work and participation through rubrics and examples, and for communication through a rubric or the Core Rules of Netiquette uses multiple means of instruction, engagement, and assessment such as audio, video, screencasts, diagrams, etc. to support Universal Design for Learning
While online/hybrid classes provide students with more flexibility and new ways to collaborate, success in the online/hybrid environment is directly related to how present and engaged both the instructor and the students are in the virtual classroom. In the Faculty Focus article, What Online Teachers Need to Know, all four of the basic elements listed there are part of an instructor’s online presence.
Being present in your online class is not only about good practice and supporting student learning and engagement. Instructor presence and communication is what makes the difference between a class being categorized as a distance education class v/s a correspondence course. The US Department of Education has defined the difference between “distance education” and “correspondence education” based on the “regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor.” The definition also notes that the interaction cannot be primarily initiated by the student. The instructor must initiate interaction. Simply posting recorded lectures or textual materials online, along with exams or quizzes, will not meet the federal (and WASC) guidelines and will be classified as a correspondence course. Students can’t use federal financial aid to pay for correspondence education . Online courses, for which students may use financial aid, must have significant faculty-student interaction.
Pasadena Community College offers some guidelines for regular effective contact with students:
Instructor Initiated Interactions
- Design daily or weekly assignments and projects that promote collaboration among students.
- Model course netiquette at the beginning of the semester with instructor-guided introductions.
- Pose questions in the discussion boards which encourage various types of interaction and critical thinking skills among all course participants.
- Monitor content activity to ensure that students participate fully and discussions remain on topic.
- Create a specific forum for questions regarding course assignments.
- Ask students for feedback about the course on a regular basis and revise content as needed.
Frequency & Timeliness of Interactions
- Maintain an active daily presence, particularly during the beginning weeks of a course.
- Give frequent and substantive feedback throughout the course.
- Let students know what response time they should expect for questions/inquiries (eg. 24-48 hours).
Expectations for Interactions
- Explain course policy regarding student-initiated contact (where to post questions, assignments, etc.) in the syllabus.
- Outline and explain netiquette in initial course documents.
- Clarify important dates, such as assignment and assessment deadlines not only in the beginning but also throughout the course.
Absences from Interactions
- Inform students immediately of the absence should an illness, family emergency or other unexpected event prevent continuing regular effective contact for a prolonged period of time (>1 week).
- Inform students of whom to contact with course questions during the absence.
- Let students know when regular effective instructor-initiated contact will resume.
Community of Inquiry Model
Garrison, Anderson, and Archer developed the Community of Inquiry Model to describe the ways in which multiple types of online presence interact in an online course. The following interactive tool describes the inter-related aspects of presence based on the Community of Inquiry Model.
Instructor Presence Resources
The content found here was designed by Indiana University and adapted for use by the Institute for Faculty Development at Vanguard University. This material is offered under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license and should be considered under this license unless otherwise noted. The original content was imported from “Designing and Teaching for Impact in Online Courses” from within Canvas Commons.