Teaching presence includes both the planning and forethought that go into building your course and what you do “in the moment” when interacting with your students. The parts of teaching presence that occur while the course is in session include facilitation of discourse and direct instruction.
Direct instruction is the more straightforward of the two and would include pre-developed presentations, assessing student work and providing instructive feedback, diagnosing misconceptions, clarifying concepts, and referring students to additional resources or practice opportunities.
Facilitating discourse is more than simply requiring students to post to a discussion and reply to others. It involves regularly reading and providing feedback on student postings, encouraging participation, moving the discussion forward when it stalls or gets off track, identifying and drawing out areas of agreement and disagreement, pointing out linkages, and helping students articulate shared understandings. Immediacy behaviors can be helpful when facilitating discourse. Things like referring to students by name, encouraging student-student conversation, sharing personal examples from your own research, travel, or conversations with other faculty contribute to both social and teaching presence.
Cormier and Siemans (2010) also suggest several roles instructors can take to provide active teaching presence in an online course:
- Amplifying – Drawing attention to important ideas/concepts, both in the course materials and in student comments or other work.
- Curating – Selecting and arranging readings, videos, and other resources to scaffold concepts
- Aggregating – Finding and displaying patterns in discussions and other communications
- Modeling – Demonstrate the skills you expect from your students – both in terms of interaction and analysis
It is important to stay present throughout the course – not just at the beginning of the semester. Maintaining continual instructor presence during the course, particularly during natural activity lulls, keeps students motivated and engaged. Students need the structure and leadership of your active teaching presence to move from surface learning to a deeper level of engaged learning. This can take the form of:
- Defining clear expectations for student work and interactions,
- Selecting and sequencing manageable sections of content,
- Facilitating discourse with engaging questions and challenges to test understanding, as well as by modeling appropriate contributions to the discussion
- Structuring both collaborative and individual activities that are aligned with desired learning outcomes,
- Assessing learning at a deeper, more complex level and providing feedback on learning processes.
Hear more about approaches to online presence and much more in Penn State’s Center for Online Innovation Series.
Feedback as an Example of Teaching Presence
Giving feedback on assignments is a critical part of the direct instruction component of teaching presence. It provides a natural opportunity for one-to-one teaching presence while supporting student learning. Getzlaf, et al (2009) describe effective feedback as:
- A mutual process involving both student and instructor
- Providing constructive guidance that builds confidence
- Guiding through explicit expectations and ongoing coaching
- Meeting mutually established timelines
- Being applicable to future situations
In an online course it is important for students to get frequent feedback on how they are doing. Are they learning what they are supposed to be learning? Are they achieving the learning outcomes? The most effective way to ensure that students get the feedback they need to stay on track is through a comprehensive, balanced assessment strategy that includes both formative and summative assessments. You can even have students provide peer feedback if you supervise it well.
There are several ways to provide feedback in Canvas: individual written, audio, or video feedback through Speed Grader or via an Inbox message; group feedback in the group space via a group announcement or discussion forum; and aggregated class feedback via whole class announcements or discussion forums.
However you choose to provide feedback, it is important that the feedback is provided in a timely manner and that it includes specific suggestions for improvement. For more information on providing good feedback see 7 Keys to Effective Feedback.
Being Present from the Beginning: Introducing Yourself to Your Class
While being present throughout the course is critical, starting as you mean to go on is also important. Providing a personal video introduction at the start of the course allows students to see you as a human being which can mitigate the anonymity of text-based conversation and encourage human connections.
One of the first things you normally do in your class is to introduce yourself. In an online class, introductions are even more important as they are one of the first points of contact with you as an instructor and likely the first one where they see you visually. Video introductions help your students feel more connected to you and lets them know there is a real, live faculty member behind the course. They support teaching presence, which is essential to online success. Research on video introductions indicates that they can improve student engagement at the beginning of the course and encourage positive student perceptions of you as the instructor.
By beginning the semester by personally introducing yourself and sharing your background, expertise, and interests in a welcoming manner, you can show your students that you are approachable and interested in their learning. Creating a basic introduction video is also a great way to start thinking about using video and audio more generally, which diversifies the methods of communication and information delivery in your course. Simple webcam recordings are fine as long as you make sure your lighting and audio are good.
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.