JOLT - Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
- MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching
- Vol. 6, No. 4, December 2010
- The Indicators of Instructor Presence that are Important to Students in Online Courses
- Kathleen Sheridan National-Louis University Chicago, Illinois 60603 USA firstname.lastname@example.org Melissa A. Kelly National-Louis University Chicago, Illinois 60603 USA email@example.com
- Research indicates that many higher education institutions view online learning as an integral and necessary mode of delivery (Berg, 2002; Durrington, Berryhill, & Swafford, 2006; Natriello, 2005; Tabatabaei, Schrottner, & Reichgelt, 2006) with conveniences including increased access, fast delivery, potentially improved pedagogy, and decreased costs for both students and institutions.
- One of the issues that instructors wrestle with is the optimal level of engagement in their online courses. After developing course materials and making them available to students, some instructors may adopt a minimalist approach.
- Kassinger (2004) has defined instructor presence as the instructor's interaction and communication style and the frequency of the instructor's input into the class discussions and communications.
- Similarly Pallof and Pratt (2003) pointed out that an instructor's presence entails "posting regularly to the discussion board, responding in a timely manner to e-mail and assignments, and generally modeling good online communication and interactions" (p. 118).
- teaching presence has been defined as "the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the realization of personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes"
- three components of teaching presence: instructional design, facilitation of discourse, and direct instruction.
- Facilitating discourse focuses on identifying areas of agreement and disagreement within students' discussions, encouraging and reinforcing student contributions, setting the climate for learning, and prompting discussion. Direct instruction focuses on presenting course content and discussion prompts, summarizing discussions, examining and reinforcing students' understandings of main concepts, diagnosing students' misperceptions, providing information for students, and responding to students' concerns.
- Research indicates that teacher presence has an impact on students' success in online learning (Bliss & Lawrence, 2009; Garrison & Cleveland-Innes, 2005; Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, & Fung, 2010; Pawan, Paulus, Yalcin, & Chang, 2003; Varnhagen, Wilson, Krupa, Kasprzak, & Hunting, 2005; Wu & Hiltz, 2004). LaPointe and Gunawardena (2004) reported that students' perceived teaching presence had a direct impact on their self-reported learning outcomes.
- Cognitive presence is highly related to teaching presence in that the way that an instructor designs and delivers a course can have a tremendous impact on the students' cognitive presence in the course.
- As defined by Swan, et al. (2008), social presence represents the students' feeling of connectedness, both socially and emotionally, with others in the online environment. It encompasses three elements: affective expression, open communication, and group cohesion. Affective expression is the students' expression of emotions, use of humor, and self-disclosure. Open communication represents the students' willingness to strike up conversations and respond to one another in an honest yet respectful manner.
- Group cohesion refers to the students agreeing with one another, using inclusive terms such as "we" when referring to the group, and using salutations, vocatives, and phatics when referring to classmates (Lowenthal, in press).
- Figure 1 . Concept map of responses that pertained to the instructor setting up the course. The numbers in parentheses indicates the frequency of the response.
- While the students generally placed high value on communication and the instructor's responsiveness, they did not place as much importance on synchronous or face-to-face communication.
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