Improving Your Teaching Presence in Distance Learning Courses
Have you ever listened to a lecturer who was so engaging you felt as though you were right there with them sharing their experiences? Or one who was so boring you felt like you might fall asleep? Just like in a face-to-face environment, the teaching presence of the instructor can make a significant difference in the engagement and attention of distance learners.
Students in a distance learning course with a strong instructor presence feel as though the instructor is right there with them, guiding them along the way in a safe environment where they can feel free to share their thoughts, and learn from the instructor and from each other without being judged or criticized in a negative way. When there is little instructor presence the course can feel "abandoned" or neglected. If there is too much instructor presence and not enough peer presence the course can feel stifling to students and they may be less willing to share their thoughts and ideas.
Teaching presence is a significant component of the community of inquiry model developed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer in 2000. The components of this model are cognitive presence, social presence and teaching presence. Cognitive presence encompasses the course content and its contribution to critical thinking skills. Social presence is the social environment created in an online teaching course. Teaching presence includes the organization of course content, activities, and interaction along with the added expertise of the instructor (Anderson, Elloumi, 274). Teaching presence is defined in the model as "the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes" (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, Archer). Although the instructor is not physically present in a distance learning course, implementing the following techniques can improve the sense of presence for your students.
Tips for Increasing Instructor Presence in your Distance Learning Course
Let your students get to know you and incorporate your own personality where appropriate
- Record an introductory video for the first week of the course introducing yourself, your teaching style, student expectations and goals for the course. Contact the ATC to schedule a time for recording your video.
- Start off each week with a brief personalized note detailing your learning objectives for the lesson and what assignments or tasks need to be done for the week. If relevant, include a personal anecdote or a brief comment on a current event. An example would be to welcome students back for a new semester or from the midterm break. This can be done easily in myWPI by Adding an item at the top of your folder and typing your note in the text box.
- Incorporate your own voice by narrating your PowerPoint slides or other on-screen materials with Camtasia Studio.
- For written materials, try a more natural and conversational tone.
Leave evidence of your presence
- Show your presence by checking in to the website as often as possible and leave timely "evidence" that you have been there such as posting new announcements or discussion board postings. For example, if you only post every other week the students may feel that the course site has been "abandoned."
- Set expectations at the beginning of the course for your students of how often you will be checking in and your response time.
- Share information with your distance learners that will help them in their careers, just as you would with on-campus students. For example, post links to articles or current job postings in your industry to the Announcements area.
Make your course site as organized, clear, and easy to navigate as possible
- Distance learning students are often working on their coursework alone and during odd hours. If a question comes up while they are working, they usually have to wait for an answer. Be as clear as possible with your expectations and instructions for assignments. Try to anticipate student questions and include more detail than you would for an on-campus course.
- Keep a running list of questions from your distance learning students and create a "Frequently Asked Questions" list in your course site. Keep this list for the next time you teach the course and continue to add questions as they come up.
- Organize your material in myWPI using folders. Place all of your materials for each week or lesson into a single folder so the students can find everything they need in one place.
- Use course links to link to the discussion board forum for the week or other parts of myWPI that cannot be directly posted in a folder.
- Post your weekly folders in reverse order so that the current weekly folder is at the top of the list and easy to find.
Anderson T., Elloumi F. Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Retrieved April 3, 2007.
Anderson T., Rourke L., Garrison D., Archer, W. (2001, September). "Assessing Teaching Presence in a Computer Conferencing Context". Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN)5 (2). Retrieved April 3, 2007.
University of British Columbia Office of Learning Technology. Teaching Your Course; Establishing Instructor Presence. Retrieved April 3, 2007.
Last modified: Apr 05, 2007, 14:38 EDT