Unit 1: Understanding Instructor Presence and Online Community

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Welcome to Unit 1: Understanding Instructor Presence and Online Community!

Mini Lecture

Anderson, Rourke, Garrison and Archer (2001) define teaching presence as “the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes” (p.5). Anderson, et al. (2001) posit that teaching presence encompasses instructional design, course facilitation and direct instruction.

Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2000) describe teaching presence as “the binding element in creating a community of inquiry for educational purposes” (p.96). In an online learning environment, Garrison et al. (2000) define the role of teaching presence to include regulating the amount of content included in a course, moderating online discussions, creating groups, and making effective use of communication tools.

Oyarzun, Barreto and Conklin (2018) suggest that through the establishment of teaching presence an instructor employs instructional techniques and strategies to create a quality online experience for students. This online experience favors interaction with the content, the instructor and the students over the technology that is required to deliver the online experience.

Perhaps more simply stated, teaching presence can be defined as “being there” in terms of communicating with, interacting with and guiding students (Lowenthal, 2015 as cited in Oyarzun et al., 2018).

Larry Ragan of the Penn State World Campus considers instructor presence to be multi-dimensional. It takes into account the persona of the instructor, his or her social presence that includes the connections the instructor makes with students, and the connections students make with one another that support the development of a community, and his or her instructional presence (Kelly, 2014). When considering the nature of online learning and the absence of a both a physical space, and an instructor who is physically present, the whole notion of instructor presence takes on a significant role in helping to connect students to the institution, and to help them avoid feeling isolated (Kelly, 2014).

From the student perspective, students place high value on the instructors who set clear course expectations, and who are responsive to student needs. This includes being timely in the delivery of course information and feedback (Sheridan and Kelly, 2010). Further, an emphasis needs to be placed on the facilitation of the course to include actively engaging with students. One way instructors can actively engage with students is by setting up different ways to communicate with them such as setting up a discussion forum to answer general questions about the course, and scheduling online office hours using an online meeting tool such as Skype or Zoom. It is also important for the instructor to know their learners. Learners who are new to online learning may need a higher level of support and interaction from their instructor to support their success than more experienced online learners (Martin, Wang & Sadaf, 2018).

In terms of developing community, Shea, Li, & Pickett (2006) argue that by developing and sustaining an active teaching presence, instructors support the development of community in online courses. Through “effective design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes” (p.177) instructors can create collaborative opportunities that contribute to a “sense of connectedness and active learning” (p.177) both of which are fundamental to the development of community.

As you navigate Unit 1 of this course, consider the following questions:

  • What do you want students to know about you as an instructor and a person, and how will you convey this information to your students?
  • Further, how you will infuse “you” into the course?


Anderson, T., Rourke, L., Garrison, D.R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing teaching presence in a computer conferencing context. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 5(2).

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, 11(2), 87-105.

Kelly, R. (2014, January 7). Creating a sense of instructor presence in the online classroom. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/creating-a-sense-of-instructor-presence-in-the-online-classroom/

Lowenthal, P.R. (2015). A mixed methods examination of instructor social presence in accelerated online courses. Handbook of Research on Strategic Management of Interaction, Presence, and Participation in Online Courses, 147.

Martin, F., Wang, C., & Sadaf, A. (2018). Student perception of helpfulness of facilitation strategies that enhance instructor presence, connectedness, engagement and learning in online courses. The Internet and Higher Education, 37, 52-65.

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

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.

Sheridan, K. & Kelly, M.A. (2010). The indicators of instructor presence that are important to students in online courses. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(4), 1-11.

Now that you have read an introduction to Instructor Presence and how it is developed, watch the following videos which expand on the topic of instructor presence and building online community.

Please watch the following videos:

Quality by Design: Creating Instructor Presence

Developing Community in an Online Course

Please read the following articles:

The following articles will be helpful for you as you begin to consider how to not only build instructor presence in your online course, but also how to effectively teach online. The last reading is actually a fantastic website that contains helpful strategies pertaining to building instructor presence. This is a great website to bookmark to save for future use!

Eight Roles of an Effective Online Teacher

How to Be a Better Online Teacher Advice Guide. Please pay particular attention to tips #1 and #2.

Visit the Instructor Presence website and read through the content on the page.

Next, listen to the following podcast. (Optional)

This podcast is optional. You do not need to listen to it at this time. It is a great resource that you may wish to bookmark on your computer and save for future reference. It is a conversation between the hosts of Tea for Teaching, John Kane and Rebecca Mushtare at the State University of New York at Oswego and their guest, Flower Darby who is a Senior Instructional Designer at Northern Arizona University.

This is Episode 71 of the Tea for Teaching podcast. The title is Small Teaching Online.

Please do the following:

Think about the content contained in Unit 1. Reflect on what you watched, read and listened to about creating instructor presence and building online community.

Step 1: Access the Unit 1 Discussion Google Doc and comment on the following:

  • Two things that you learned about creating instructor presence and an online community.
  • One thing you want to implement in your online course.
  • One thing you still have questions about and want to research.

Step 2: On the Unit 1 Discussion Google Doc, add a comment on an idea shared by another learner.

Step 3: Create a Journal Post using a paper journal and a pen, using Word or Google Docs, or an online journal platform such as Monkkee Live Journal or Tumblr.

This journal post is for your personal use to begin to think about how you will create instructor presence in your online course.

Please reflect on the following questions in your journal post:

  • How do you plan to "show up" in each module or your online course? In what ways will you create instructor presence?
  • How will you build a foundation for a community of learners?

Return to Handbook for Building Instructor Presence