CCO Public Domain

Check In With Students & Be Highly Responsive

We talk a lot about “instructor presence” in teaching and learning – especially in online, hybrid, and blended courses. Instructor presence is another way for faculty to be engaged in a learner’s academic journey. This includes checking in with students to see how they are doing, as well as connecting with learners through activities that include social, teaching, and cognitive presence.

What is “Instructor Presence”?

In educational research, an often cited model for online course-based learning is the Community of Inquiry model (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). Within this model, importance is placed on how the instructor (and learners) assert their presence in the course, and presence affects learning. Instructor presence is classified into Social, Teaching, and Cognitive presence.

Explore this handy chart for strategies in each area.

While definitions vary for each, core similarities can be summarized as follows:

Social Presence can be defined as “… establishing personal and purposeful relationships with both peers and the instructor,” (Swan, K., Shih, L. F., 2005), or “the ability of participants to identify with the [course] community, communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop interpersonal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities” (Garrison, 2009). Indicators of social presence include comments that are supportive, build a sense of course cohesion, and are motivating.

Teaching Presence is associated with how you design your course to provide direct instruction, to monitor interaction, and to contribute your knowledge and experience. Cumulatively, these design features enable learners to realize meaningful outcomes (Anderson, T., 2004; Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).

Cognitive Presence is “the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse” (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). Simply put, cognitive presence is expressed through online interaction in ways that cause learners to think more deeply, or to elaborate upon a statement or claim.

Why is Presence Important?

Measuring the absolute effect of instructor presence is imperfect, but a number of studies have indicated that learners benefit from instructor presence, with each learner experiencing it in his or her own way.

One study, though small in scale, indicated that it wasn’t so much the overall quantity of your presence in your course that makes a difference, but the balance of all three forms of presence – Social, Teaching, and Cognitive – that positively affected students’ learning experiences (Swan, K., Shih, L. F., 2005).

How to Teach with Presence

Instructor presence is felt in a number of ways, including timely and meaningful feedback, and availability to answer questions. Another common area where presence can be felt is in online or in-class discussions.

Their findings suggest that striking an even balance of cognitive, teaching, and social communication in discussion forums results in students feeling that the instructor is highly engaged and supportive of higher-level thinking.

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