Using Video to Foster Presence in an Online Course

Using Video to Foster Presence in an Online Course

Sharon Stoerger
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3962-1.ch012
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By definition, presence makes individuals feel connected and part of a community. Yet, creating presence among the students and their instructor does not happen automatically and can be especially challenging to develop in online courses. In these learning environments, interactions are frequently text-based and asynchronous. The visual and auditory cues generally associated with face-to-face interactions are absent. However, easy-to-use, inexpensive technologies to create audio and video content are emerging, and they can foster presence in educational settings. This chapter investigates the use of rich media to promote social, cognitive, and teaching presence. Specifically, instructor-created videos were used to enhance the sense of presence in a fully online course. Responses to surveys, reflections, and unstructured follow-up interviews suggest that students prefer the richer mode of communication, indicating that they felt a greater connection to the instructor as well as their classmates.
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The availability of mobile devices, video-recording devices, and wireless Internet access is on the rise. The flexibility associated with anytime, anywhere access to information encourages learners to be more autonomous. However, online communication can be quite stark without visual and audio cues. In an email message, for example, the tone and pitch of voice as well as the speaker’s body language are absent. When instruction moves online, the primary mode of communication is often asynchronous and text-based with no opportunity for face-to-face interaction among the students and the instructor.

Communication in an online environment can be a very isolating experience. Not only can purely text-based interactions result in miscommunication, but students may feel they are interacting with robots instead of real people, as well. While online learning offers convenience and opportunities for reflection, this format can also hinder the development of social presence as students are physically, intellectually, and emotionally disconnected from other students and their instructors.

According to Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000), presence – social, teacher, and cognitive – is essential to learning and to creating a successful college experience. Social presence is built primarily through encouraging open communication and group cohesion. Cognitive presence involves the exploration, integration, and resolution of ideas and course content. A sense of teaching presence is accomplished through course design, through facilitating conversations and thought processes, and through direct, personal instruction. Together, these three presences build what Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) describe as the community of inquiry framework (see Figure 1).

Figure 1.

Community of inquiry framework (adopted from Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000)


But how does one establish presence without face-to-face communication? By adding an audio-visual component such as video, the online instructor can enrich interaction and build a community of learners. When instructors use video to convey open, friendly, and collegial attitudes, they foster social presence. As instructors share information, inspire ideas, and connect concepts, they build cognitive presence. Teaching presence develops when video is used in course design through directing, clarifying, and authenticating conversation. Instructors may also cultivate this type of presence via direct, personal instruction such as video feedback.

New technology makes it easier for instructors to use rich media to convey information, build presence, and become visible to their online students. To augment communication in online educational spaces, Haythornthwaite et al. (2000) noted the benefits of incorporating visual cues. Barab et al. (2003) assert that simply adding pictures to profile information can help students make connections and create a stronger learning community. When instructors post a picture with their welcome message, for example, those individuals become more than an automated bot leading the course; they become humanized.

This chapter will describe tactics to enhance presence in a fully online course. Specifically, the focus will be on the use of four types of instructor-created videos and their impact on students. The discussion will begin by examining the importance of presence in the educational process, followed by an examination in the use of technology to foster student-instructor connections and to create community in educational settings. After the video-enriched course is described, the discussion will examine the students’ reaction to the videos and areas for future research.



In face-to-face courses, instructors constantly employ both audio and visual communication. According to Baker (2004), 60% of communication is non-verbal, which means that the majority of face-to-face instruction does not involve words. Students learn not just from what is said but also from their instructor’s body language, visual aids, and vocal pitch and tone – all of which can be difficult to replicate online.

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