Instructor Presence

Instructor Presence

Beth Allred Oyarzun (University of North Carolina Wilmington, USA), Sheri Anderson Conklin (UNCW, USA) and Daisyane Barreto (UNCW, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1851-8.ch006
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Abstract

Student isolation and retention rates are persistent issues in online learning. Research has shown that an important component of student performance and satisfaction is instructor presence (Picciano, 2002). Instructor presence includes three elements: 1) Teaching presence, 2) Instructor immediacy, and 3) Social presence (Mandemach, Gonzales, & Garrett, 2006). This chapter will use this definition of instructor presence to outline best pedagogical practices with concrete examples to increase instructor presence in asynchronous online courses. Each section will begin with a definition and research on that construct followed by best practices with concrete examples.
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Introduction

Online education is an area that continues to grow, especially in higher education settings. The number of students taking at least one online course has increased by over five million to a new total of 6.7 million students (Allen & Seaman, 2013). Still, student isolation and retention rates are persistent issues in online learning. Research has shown that an important component of student performance and satisfaction is instructor presence (Borup, West, Graham, 2012; Griffiths & Graham, 2009; Picciano, 2002). Instructor presence includes three elements:

  • 1.

    Teaching presence,

  • 2.

    Instructor immediacy, and

  • 3.

    Social presence (Mandemach, Gonzales, & Garrett, 2006).

This chapter will use these elements of instructor presence to outline research based best pedagogical practices with concrete examples to increase instructor presence in asynchronous online courses.

Teaching and social presence are both constructs of the popular Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework developed by Garrison, Anderson and Archer (2010). This framework is designed to assist instructors in designing online courses to ensure that transactional distance, which refers to the separation of teacher and learner in online educational programs (Moore, 2007), is lessened and that deep meaningful learning occurs. There are three interdependent elements associated with CoI framework that foster deep and meaningful learning experiences: social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. Even though a considerable number of studies investigating the CoI framework has been conducted, few studies reported any objective measures of learning to support the claims that application of the CoI framework leads to deeper levels of learning (Rourke & Kanuka, 2009). Still, the research does connect the CoI framework with increased learner satisfaction and perceived learning (Akyol, Garrison, & Ozden, 2009; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Swan & Shih, 2005).

Learner satisfaction and motivation is often influenced by the interactions that happen in the online environment, which leads us to the topic of instructor immediacy. Instructor immediacy is a concept defined from two communication theories: Moore’s (1973) transactional distance theory and Mehrabian’s (1971) communication immediacy theory. Transactional distance is defined as the psychological distance between online learners and instructors. Moore’s theory proposes that more interaction between instructors and learners lessens transactional distance. Communication immediacy refers to the physical and verbal behaviors that reduce psychological and physical distance between individuals. The verbal behaviors can be translated into online learning. In this case, instructor immediacy involves communication strategies that reduce social and psychological distance between learners and instructors in online learning (Arbaugh, 2001). A level of instructor immediacy has been shown to increase retention and achievement (Bodie & Bober-Michel, 2014).

This chapter will discuss research and provide examples of the best practices for teaching presence, instructor immediacy, and social presence. Each section will begin with the definition and research on the concept followed by discussion and best practices with concrete examples.

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