Handbook for Building Instructor Presence

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Think about the last time you enrolled in a course, completed a workshop, or engaged in an online training. Did you know anything about the instructor? Did you feel connected to the instructor in a way that influenced your participation in the course, workshop or training? Think about what you learned. Would you have acquired greater understanding through greater presence of the instructor or facilitator? By building teacher, or instructor presence, an instructor has the ability to influence the development of a community, as well as, student engagement in and success in a course.

The concept of instructor presence is particularly important in an online course because students can develop feelings of isolation and lack connection to their instructor and peers due to the fact that learning occurs at a distance (Oyarzun, Barreto & Conklin, 2018). In addition, if a course is poorly designed, the instructor can come across as distant and students will have a difficult time connecting to both the course and the instructor (Krislov, 2019).

Teaching presence is the binding ingredient in establishing both social and cognitive presence, as well as, a community of learners in an online learning environment. Broadly speaking, the teacher builds presence through course design and management, building student understanding and providing instruction in the course (Garrison, Anderson & Archer, 2000). For the purpose of this course, I will refer to teacher presence as instructor presence, as the term instructor is more commonly used in the context of a Higher Education learning environment.

The purpose of this course is to familiarize participants with the concept of instructor presence, and all that it encompasses including its impact on the development of community in an online classroom. Additionally, this course explores the intersection of humanizing an online course and the development of instructor presence in an online course. Finally, participants will become fluent in the steps they can take to develop instructor presence in an online course.

This course is organized into three units:

  • Understanding Instructor Presence and Online Community
  • Identifying Humanizing Principles
  • Designing for Instructor Presence

Following the units in order will be the easiest to understand, and will help participants gain the most from this course. The target audience includes both full and part time instructors in a community college,college or university setting who design and teach courses online.

Performance Objectives

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the tools that can be used to build instructor presence
  • Initiate the development of an online community
  • Integrate humanizing principles into their course
  • Create a roadmap detailing their plans to build instructor presence

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Unit 1: Understanding Instructor Presence and Online Community

Unit 1 introduces learners to the meaning of instructor presence and the ways that instructors can build it in their online courses. This unit expands on the connection between instructor presence and online community development. In this unit learners are presented a mini lecture, and they will engage in videos, podcasts, readings and discussion. Learners will be asked to write a reflective journal entry.

Unit 2: Identifying Humanizing Principles

Unit 2 introduces learners to what it means to humanize a course, and are offered tips for integrating humanizing principles into their course. In this unit learners are presented a mini lecture, and they will engage in videos, be presented various websites to be used as resources, and they will engage in discussion. Learners will be asked to contribute to an Answer Garden.

Unit 3: Designing for Instructor Presence

In Unit 3 learners will create the foundation for designing a course that includes instructor presence. Learners will engage in readings, and various websites featuring tools which can be used to support instructor presence. Learners will be asked to add to a tool library and create a roadmap for building instructor presence. ...

source:Giulia Forsythe on Flickr image is in the public domain

Extended Resources

Arbaugh, J.B. & Hwang, A. (2006). Does “teaching presence” exist in online MBA courses? Internet and Higher Education, 9, 9-21.

Bolliger, D.U. & Martin, F. (2018). Instructor and student perceptions of online student engagement strategies. Distance Education, 39(4), 568-583.

Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Krislov, M. (2019, September 25). The importance of presence offline and online in higher education. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/marvinkrislov/2019/09/25/the-importance-of-presence-offline-and-online-in-higher-education/#2e7456482329

Oyarzun, B., Barreto, D., & Conklin, S. (2018). Instructor social presence effects on learner social presence, achievement, and satisfaction. TechTrends, 62, 625-634.

Rovai, A.P. (2002). Sense of community, perceived cognitive learning, and persistence in asynchronous learning networks. The Internet and Higher Education, 5, 319-332.

Shea, P., Li, C.S., Pickett, A. (2006). A study of teaching presence and student sense of learning community in fully online and web-enhanced college courses. The Internet and Higher Education, 9, 175-190.