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Increasing instructor presence

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How do you make your students feel like you are "there" when you're not really "there"? While video sessions are important, they aren't the only way to build a connection with your students. Instructor presence requires planning and foresight and should be included in course design from the earliest stages.

1. Create and nurture social presence

Interactivity in online courses, particularly between the student and instructor, can play an important role both in student satisfaction and persistence. Communicate clearly and often so students feel connected to you. Social presence is important to online learners as it combats feelings of isolation and gives learners a feeling of community. 

1.1. Getting started

  1. Start with you! What are you thinking, as you start the course? Create a course orientation experience with a “How This Course Works” module to introduce students to how the course will run, manage expectations and develop a sense of community. 
  2. Schedule online office hours using a webinar tool (see Which webinar tool should I use and when?)
  3. Be yourself - if you're creating pre-recorded videos, include some of your personality in them (see How to participate in the remote editing process and how to self-capture course content)
  4. If you are using discussion boards, be a lively and consistent participant. Think of it as how you'd interact with students when they ask you questions during breaks or after class - this is your sidebar.

2. Curate a journey through the course

A key orienting piece of the course is that first session - you start by welcoming everyone, getting them settled, and answering questions (all while introducing them to your course). You can continue adapt this welcome online. You can take the role of guide for your students through the term, providing a clear path through the course and clearly communicating expectations. This will decrease student anxiety and will save time for the instructor with requests on how to find and interact with content. 

2.1. Getting started

  1. Send regular announcements that do everything from check in to announce activities to share news and achievements (see How do I add an announcement in a course?)
  2. Schedule a welcome webinar to introduce yourself and your teaching team. Even if you don't continue to use synchronous video throughout the course, this welcome will be remembered (see our guide to synchronous online activities).
  3. Visit the Example Remote/Online Course Template. You may upload this template into your own course or borrow tips and strategies from the “How This Course Works” module. Include You could include items such as: 
    • How to navigate the course 
    • Your contact information and a paragraph about you and your work 
    • Your syllabus 
    • Where to find services and support 
    • Academic integrity information 
    • Tips for being a successful learner online 
    • An introduction or icebreaker discussion or wiki for students to get to know each other
  4. Create your own module with orientation material (See how to work with modules and pages in Quercus)
  5. Add an extra personal touch by creating a course tour video

This content was adapted from "Large Online/Remote Courses" by Will Heikoop from the Online Learning Strategies at CTSI.

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