Random Online Teaching Post: Instructor Presence, part 1

Today I am going to post #1 of a short series of posts on instructor presence in the online classroom that will explore the following questions:

  1. What is instructor presence?
  2. How do you establish it?
  3. How do you maintain it in a way that does not lead to the online class taking over your life?

In this first post I am going to talk a bit about what instructor presence is and what it might look like, as well as discuss some best practices around establishing presence.

Instructor presence

… a sense of presence is “being there” and “being together” with online learners throughout the learning experience. It looks and feels as if ….the instructor is accessible to the learners and that the learners are accessible to the instructor and each other, and that the technology is transparent to the learning process.

Lehman, R.M. and Conceição, S.C.O (2010) Creating a Sense of Presence in Online Teaching, Jossey-Bass, p. 3

Online presence involves interacting in some way with your students in your online course site.  This could be as simple as saying “hello!” or answering questions posted in a discussion forum, or posting reminders in the News tool.  Remember that while you may go into your online course frequently to read postings and grade assignments, your students can’t see you there unless you “talk” to them.  And if you don’t talk to them once and a while, they will begin to think you are not there at all.  The trick comes with finding a way to be present without taking too much of the lead and dampening student to student interaction.

Establishing presence

There are many ways to establish your presence in an online classroom, but a large part of establishing presence lies in how you design your course.  For example, in addition to organizing your course site so it is easy to navigate,

  • Plan for what tools you will use to keep in touch with your students and create spaces for interaction.
  • Set course expectations as part of the course design, and place this information in easy-to-access locations.
  • If you are going to use media (audio or video, for example) to enhance your presence in your online classroom, plan for this early so you have time to create your media pieces and set them up on your course site.

Strangely enough, another way to inject your presence is through the tone of your writing voice.  If you plan on providing students with text-based content (and you definitely will be if you are teaching blended or completely online), read it aloud to yourself (or to a friend or colleague) and ask yourself if it sounds like you’re speaking to students or reading a textbook.  Writing your course notes in a style that mimics how you would talk to your students in a face-to-face class will help bring you to life even without audio or video.

Once your course starts, the easiest way to establish your presence is to use your course discussion forums.  For example,

  • Post an introduction to yourself, including some personal information, a picture, and perhaps an audio or video clip so students can put a face and voice to your name.
  • In addition to an introduction, post a Welcome message to help set the tone for the course.
  • Communicate immediately where students can expect to hear from you during the course (i.e., is there an Instructor Messages forum they should be checking? Will you be using the News tool to send regular messages?), as well as how often (i.e., will you be checking the site daily? In the morning? Evening? How often will you be replying to student questions, etc.?) Once you’ve established your plan, stick to it. And if it has to change for some reason, let your students know.

This is just the beginning – once you establish your presence, you need to maintain it.  So, in my next post on online presence (which may be a few weeks away), I will take a closer look at some best-practice examples around maintaining your presence in the online classroom, and discuss some tips and tricks to help you find a good balance between too much presence and not enough.

For further information about Instructor Presence and examples of establishing presence online:

D2L Tool Tip of the week: Embedding a YouTube video in a News item

This tutorial is designed for faculty who have previous experience using the News tool or the HTML editor in D2L.  For further information, please contact desupport@camosun.ca for assistance.

This tutorial will cover the steps involved with embedding a YouTube video into a News item (and by extension, into any HTML editor page in D2L).  (Note:  Embedded video image from the Voice Activated Elevator in Scotland video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqbnRD9qHZQ).

First, go to the Homepage of your course, then:



















Things to remember

The advantage of embedding a video, YouTube or any other video, into the HTML editor (whether in the News tool, in Content, etc.) is that it gives you the option of providing your students with context around the video.  For example, you can add text before the video explaining what the video is and what the students should be watching for in the video, and text after the video explaining what the student should be doing next (i.e., going to a Discussion forum to answer questions, completing a Quiz, etc.)

When embedding a video, you do not need to worry that you are violating copyright.  You are NOT copying the video into D2L, but just basically adding a link to it.  This, however, does mean that you will need to keep an eye on the video in case the link to it disappears.

Drop-in Session Reminders for the Week

Don’t forget our Instructional Design drop-in sessions this week.   Come with your questions to LLC156 (Lansdowne) on Tuesday from 12-1, or to CC235 (Interurban) on Wednesday from 12-1.

Planning your SD for May and June?  We will also be available during the drop-in sessions to help you determine which DE Spring workshops will benefit you the most.

Not available on these days/times?  No problem.  Email desupport@camosun.ca to get linked up with an instructional designer for a one-on-one consult at a time that works for you.

Friday Fun Fact: What was the first online course ever offered?

This was a hard question to find a quick answer to.  From what I can tell from a brief online search, the first online program was started by the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (specifically in the School of Management and Strategic Studies) in 1981 (http://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-articles/history-of-distance-learning.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Behavioral_Sciences_Institute).

What did this program look like?  Well, here it is described generally:

The equipment was expensive and primitive. We used Apple IIE’s with 48K of memory and 300 baud modems. (Multiply by 1000 and 100 respectively to get current averages.) The complexity of basic computer operations in those days was such that it took a full page of printed instructions just to connect. A variant of email called computer conferencing was the only available electronic mediation.

Computer conferencing was suited to our application since it facilitated the sort of many-to-many communication that goes on in the classroom, but no one knew how to use it for education. None of us had ever been a student in an online class or seen one in operation, and we did not know the answers to the most elementary pedagogical questions, such as how to start a class, how long or short messages should be, and how often the teacher should sign on and respond to the students.  (http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/feenberg/TELE3.HTM)

Targeting “high level executives who could not afford long absence from their jobs, the electronic delivery system provided these executives with an exciting initiation to computers through a communications application suited to their skills and interests.” (http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/feenberg/wbsi3.htm)  But, of course, there were some challenges:

The real problems began when the participants returned home [after the initial face to face meeting].  Since no one had ever been taught on a computer network before, there were no models. The first courses consisted either in professorial monologues that made interesting reading but were unsatisfactory as computer conferences, or telegraphic questions followed by days of inactivity while the teachers waited for responses. Meanwhile, various technical problems inhibited the participants from joining in the conversation, such as it was.…

WBSI’s first attempts at online teaching were disastrous. Great teachers were helpless in front of a class of sympathetic but sceptical students scattered between Caracas, Philadelphia and San Francisco. One teacher offered elaborate presentations that resembled written lectures. While interesting, these had the undesirable effect of reducing the participants to silence. In a face-to-face classroom teachers can determine from subtle clues whether students’ silence signifies fascination or daydreaming. But silence on a computer network is unfathomable; it is intensely disturbing to address the electronic void.  (http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/feenberg/wbsi3.htm)

I think we’ve come a long way since then (although some of the challenges remain the same)!  But we might not be here now if it weren’t for those pre-Internet pioneers.

New Workshop highlight: Course Design for Integrating Online Technology into your F2F course

One of our exciting new workshops for this May/June is called Course Design for Integrating Online Technology into your Face-to-face Course.  The description of this workshop goes something like this:

In this workshop we will showcase and discuss examples of how various online tools (including those in D2L) have been integrated successfully into face-to-face courses. Bring your questions, and your own examples to share with the group.

This workshop is for you if you are thinking about adding some D2L component(s) to supplement or enhance your face-to-face course, but aren’t sure where to begin.  Or if you have already started using D2L for some things, but aren’t sure where to go from where you are.  It’s also for you if you are wondering what kind of online tools, aside from D2L, might support your students in achieving specific course outcomes, or if you are looking for new ways to deliver some of the activities in your course.

Come with your questions and ideas, and be ready for a dynamic discussion and showcase of examples for you to try out!  Note that examples and (information) will be posted on our D2L Community of Practice site which you will be given access to after attending the session.

To register for this, or any of our other workshops running this May/June, go to http://web.camosun.ca/cetl/de-workshops.

D2L Tip of the week: The D2L On-Demand Training course

If you are a Camosun faculty member using D2L to support your course, you can get help using D2L tools anytime you need it.  Just log into D2L (http://online.camosun.ca) and look at the My Courses widget on the My Home page.  Click on the Student button (see below), and you will see our D2L v10.3 On-Demand Training course site.

My Home - Accessing On-Demand Training site

In the D2L v10.3 On-Demand Training course site, you will find videos and documentation giving step-by-step instructions on how to use all the tools in D2L.  To find these videos, click on the On-Demand Training Tools drop-down menu, and select Training Videos (see below).  Then explore.

Finding On-Demand Training Videos

Remember, we still recommend that you attend our D2L workshops or arrange for a one-on-one consult to learn the tips and tricks for using D2L and its various tools.  But the On-Demand Training course is great when you need a quick reminder of how to use a tool at 2:00 am when there is no one around to help you!

Note that if you do NOT see the D2L v10.3 On-Demand Training course in the My Courses widget, contact desupport@camosun.ca, and you will be set up with access.

Drop-in Sessions reminder for this week

Don’t forget our Instructional Design drop-ins this week.   Come with your questions to CC235 (Interurban) on Tuesday from 12-1, or to LLC156 (Lansdowne) from 12-1 on Wednesday.

Planning your SD for May and June?  We will be available during the drop-in sessions to help you determine which DE Spring workshops will benefit you the most.

Not available on these days/times?  No problem.  Email desupport@camosun.ca to get linked up with an instructional designer for a one-on-one consult at a time that works for you.

Spring Workshop Series open for Registration


The Distributed Education Spring 2015 Workshop Series is up and open for registration!

The Distributed Education (DE) Workshop Series is designed to assist faculty (beginner to advanced) with incorporating various educational technologies (including Desire2Learn (D2L) and Camtasia) into their teaching.  Make sure to register for the session(s) you would like to attend (click on the links below to view the sessions, and then on the Register Here button at the bottom of the page) so that we can notify you if there is a room change or cancellation.

Note:  This schedule is subject to change.  Please check back to confirm dates, times and locations for the workshops.  Don’t see what you’re looking for?  Contact DE Support (desupport@camosun.ca) to book a consult with an Instructional Designer.

Go to DE Workshop Series – Spring 2015 for more information, and to register.

Planning for SD?

Are you planning for SD?  Wondering what Distributed Education will be offering this Spring and what to attend?  Come to a planning information session and plan your SD with DE!

Description:  Designed for both experienced and new instructors, these information sessions will help you determine which sessions in the Distributed Education Workshop Series in May/June will benefit you the most.

No need to register – just come on out, and someone will be there to help you! If you do have any questions, or if these days/times don’t work for you, contact Emily Schudel at schudele@camosun.ca.

Dates and Locations:

  • Tuesday, March 3, 12:00-1:00pm, LLC156 Lansdowne Campus
  • Wednesday March 4, 12:00-1:00pm, CC235 Interurban Campus
  • Tuesday, March 10, 12:00-1:00pm, LLC156 Lansdowne Campus
  • Wednesday March 11, 12:00-1:00pm, CC235 Interurban Campus

Community of Practice on Teaching and Learning Using Online Technologies

Announcing a new Community of Practice (CoP) at Camosun College:  Community of Practice on Teaching and Learning using Online Technologies.

This peer-based Community of Practice (CoP) is for faculty and other members of the Camosun community interested in using online tools (including, but not restricted to, Desire2Learn) to enhance their face-to-face teaching, to teach blended courses, or to teach fully online.  This CoP will provide a forum for us to share questions, experiences, best practices, and lessons learned associated with the use of online technologies in teaching.  The agenda for our gatherings will be driven by members’ needs, interests and questions.

The CoP on Teaching and Learning Online will be enhanced with a D2L course site designed to provide a space for participants to discuss their practice outside of the face-to-face community, as well as a place to share ideas and resources with a broader community of practitioners.

(from http://web.camosun.ca/cetl/content/current-communities-practice)

For more information on this CoP, or to find out how to get involved in any of the many Communities of Practice at Camosun College, go to http://web.camosun.ca/cetl/content/communities-practice.