Academic Technology Center
Teaching with Technology Collaboratory

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

Leave evidence of your presence

Make your course site as organized, clear, and easy to navigate as possible


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.

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Last modified: Apr 05, 2007, 14:38 EDT
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