We’ve established that instructor presence hinges on a combination of thoughtful course design, the creation and presentation of instructional materials, facilitation of discourse, and regular and planned communication with students. Review the following simple but effective avenues for establishing and maintaining your presence in online courses.
Establish your presence at the start of term with an instructor introduction. This is a great place to share your experience, why the course excites you, and even a bit about your personal life or interests so that students feel more comfortable with you. Recording a brief video to share in the first week is a powerful way to let students get to know your personality, expertise, and communication style. But even posting a photo on your course homepage, alongside a friendly welcome and bio, can help students put a face to your name.
Share regular weekly announcements or emails to alert students to important updates, provide supplemental material of academic interest such as conferences or university events, clarify misconceptions made apparent by assignments or exams, and answer commonly asked questions. Learn how to set up Announcements in Carmen.
Include a page at the outset of each course module to introduce and contextualize the new material. A brief module summary can guide students to see how the new material will build upon what they’ve already learned. Module overviews can also explain how the content connects to course outcomes and direct students’ attention to upcoming activities and assignments. A short video, even one recorded from your phone, is an easy and personal way to accomplish these tasks. Learn about setting up your course content using modules and pages in Carmen.
Be sure to include instructional content authored or presented by you in the course so students connect you to the material they’re learning. Screencast or video lectures, podcasts, expert interviews conducted by you, and interactive lessons can be great ways to impart didactic information in a personable and relatable manner.
While text and screencast lectures are both helpful means to incorporate your presence, studies have shown that students appreciate seeing as well as hearing their instructor. Enabling your camera during a video lecture or posting pictures of yourself in the course helps students feel more connected to you. To learn more about recording effective video lectures, you can watch the recorded workshop, Recording Lecture Videos: Best Practices and Tools.
Whenever possible, provide individualized feedback on assignments and activities. Personalized feedback will strengthen your connection with students.
In Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2013), L. Dee Fink notes that high-quality feedback is critical to creating a positive human presence and student-instructor connection in online courses. High-quality feedback is:
Frequent: To maintain instructor presence and keep students connected, give them some sort of meaningful feedback at least once a week, whether it's feedback on an assignment or simply a thoughtful response to a discussion post.
Immediate: Deliver feedback as soon as possible after a student submits work. For the purposes of maintaining ongoing connection, most best practices for online teaching recommend turning around assignment feedback within a week.
Discriminating (based on criteria and standards): Provide specific feedback about a student's performance based on predefined criteria, such as by using a rubric. Offer corrective advice instead of identifying strengths and weaknesses.
Delivered Warmly (supportively, personally): Use feedback as an opportunity to encourage students, even if the feedback isn't all positive. Write personalized feedback whenever possible.