Instructor Presence

Showing You're Students that You're There and You Care

Tips and Technologies

When you're teaching online, you don't have the luxury of seeing a student every few days to see how they're doing.  Hence, you need to use technology to maintain these connections.  By establishing a positive instructional presence with your students, you can foster student-to-student social presence while also inspiring creativity.

There are many, many approaches to building interactions.  Defeating the Kobayashi Maru: Supporting Student Retention by Joni Dunlap and Patrick Lowenthal provides an excellent overview of using telephone, discussions, e-mail, and other tools.  Here, I've given my own brief overview, and the video by Solic emphasizes why your presence matters in the classroom.

However, I want to point out that establishing instructional presence is not easy.  It is, in fact, one of the hardest things we do, especially in online courses.  For many students — and also some teachers — the natural feelings of isolation that occur when interacting with a screen can be very difficult to overcome.  For myself, one of my struggles is e-mail — for whatever reason, the endless bombardment of ads, announcements, and other e-mails make it harder for me to sift through the clutter to connect with my students.  This is why I give out my cell phone number — it offers a direct, reliable line with my students for those days when my e-mail inbox is simply overwhelming.

For yourself, be sure to find the system that works for you and for your students.  Giving out a phone number isn't appropriate for all teachers, and that should never be the only contact a student has with you, but I am definitely quicker to respond to students over text than e-mail.

Angela Velez Solic explains approaches expectations for instructor presence.  She focuses on teacher persona, instructional, and social presence.

Methods of Connecting with Students

Here's my own overview, much of which is shared by Dunlap and Lowenthal; Proffitt; and others:

Jay Proffitt explains why communication is the core of supporting and motivating students.

Additional Resources