Brainstorming Questionnaire for Designing or Improving a Course with Increased Faculty Presence

taking an online course

Faculty presence is a component of the online classroom that’s sometimes overlooked or underestimated by new online instructors, but it is often the most important determining factor for a student’s success and overall satisfaction in a course.

Instructor presence influences the ways that your students interact with the course content and how they interact with you. So, if you’re not there, why should they be?

One of the things I like to think about with my classes is how do I form a better learning community? That’s something that a lot of instructors do in a face-to-face classroom. But when it comes to online instruction it’s a little more challenging.

I’ve outlined below some opportunities for increasing faculty presence. These are moments during the class when you can reach out to students and demonstrate that you’re a real person who’s there for them. You’ll find opportunities before the course begins, at various checkpoints, during follow up and interventions, beyond the classroom, and as part of the course wrap-up.

How can I seem “real”?

  1. What opportunities does this course have for including more visual elements related to faculty presence? 
  2. Where can aural elements—that you create—be added to the course? ( What parts of the lecture material could be delivered with audio supplements? What assignments could you respond to with audio commentary—even if that same commentary is sent to all students as a supplement to the individualized written feedback?) 
  3. How can elements of your personality be added to the course to personalize the classroom space? How can personality be added to the classroom space to allow the students to better “know” the faculty member?
  4. What opportunities does this course have for including more authentic and good-humored exchanges?
  5. How can the course design include some flexibility and room for change?

Opportunities for additional or improved presence in your online course

Before you begin:

  1. How could you personalize the welcome email sent in advance of the course start date?
  2. Where can students post a personalized response? What media options do they have? Which media would you encourage students to use given these options?
  3. What information might you include in a welcome video? What do you hope students know about you and your course prior to starting?
  4. What information about you would be helpful to write out in a more extensive introduction to you as their professor?

When the course starts

  1. What can you do to establish a welcoming environment in the online classroom? What visual or aural elements can be included in the atmosphere of the home page?
  2. What can signal students to acquaint themselves with you? Can they easily see (or be linked) to the introduction information about you as they begin the course?
  3. Have you set up a lounge or commons area in the discussion board so that students have opportunities for authentic, continuous interactions with peers and you?

At each checkpoint

  1. What kinds of feedback might you give in addition to the grade provided for assignment submissions?
  2. What types of suggestions would be helpful to include to students to route them to academic support at various points in the course? Variety and repetition are key. Be mindful of some students’ limited access to in-person services on campus, and offer web-based solutions.
  3. What major assignments lend themselves to collective feedback posted in News?

The follow-up

  1. What schedule is reasonable for regular updates for students that could be set to auto-release?
  2. What additions can be made to News or Announcements to get and keep students coming back to the online classroom?
  3. Are there incentives that could be added to prompt students to return more often to the online classroom?

The intervention

  1. What is your schedule for checking in on your online classroom?
  2. Think about what the ideal advanced notice is for recognizing a struggling or disengaged student. How can intelligent agents be used to notify you of when students fail to meet minimum benchmarks or fail to attend throughout the course?
  3. What information would be helpful for students to have if they are absent, struggling, or failing? When would you want to send an email or reach out? In other words, when does the best practice happen for contacting these students?
  4. What questions might you pose on a self-assessment to nudge students toward revision, resubmission, or remediation opportunities?
  5. What assignments best lend themselves to self-assessment follow-ups?
  6. Could you call a few students a day to offer an additional means of communication?

Beyond the classroom

  1. How does your course relate to real-world scenarios?
  2. How can these real-world applications be clearly communicated to students?
  3. What do you do to demonstrate your passion about the subject matter?
  4. How can your personal investment in your discipline translate better into what you do in the classroom—and how students perceive what you do in the classroom?

Final words

  1. What lessons were most important over the course of the term? What must they absolutely know, understand, and not forget about your class?
  2. Why do these lessons matter?
  3. How can students continue their pursuit of the studies they began in the course?
  4. What recommendations and advice do you have to offer them? What are your words of wisdom as they leave your course?
  5. What is the tone of your final message to the students as they exit?

Additional Resources about Improving Instructor Presence

Gunderson, Barbara J., et al. “Using a Telephone Call to Increase Social Presence in Online Classes.” Nursing Education Perspectives. 35.5 (2014): 338-39. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Jan. 2016.

Kelly, Rob. “Creating a Sense of Instructor Presence in the Online Classroom.” Faculty Focus. Magna Publications, 7 Jan. 2014. Web. 5 Jan. 2016.

LaBarbera, Robin. “The Relationship between Students’ Perceived Sense of Connectedness to the Instructor and Satisfaction in Online Courses.” Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 14.4 (2013): 209-220. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Jan. 2016.

Ladyshewsky, Richard K. “Instructor Presence in Online Courses and Student Satisfaction.” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. 7.1 (2013): n.pag. Print.

Meyer, Allen D. “Establishing Instructor Presence Early in Courses.” Online Classroom. 13.1 (2013): 1-2. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Jan. 2016.

Monsivais, Diane. “From Barely There to Fully Present: 3 Ways to Improve Your Instructor Presence.” Online Classroom. 14.7 (2014): 2-4. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Jan. 2016.

Reilly, Janet Resop, Susan Gallagher-Lepak, and Cheryl Killion. “‘Me and My Computer’: Emotional Factors in Online Learning.” Nursing Education Perspectives. 33.2 (2012): 100-05. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Jan. 2016.

Sheridan, Kathleen, and Melissa A. Kelly. “The Indicators of Instructor Presence that are Important to Students in Online Courses.” MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 6.4 (Dec. 2010): 767-79. Print.

Skramstad, Erik. “Teaching Presence and Communication Timeliness in Asynchronous Online Courses.” Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 13.3 (2012): 183-88. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Jan. 2016.

Excerpted from the supplemental materials of the 20-Minute Mentor titled How Can I Keep Students Engaged with Instructor Presence? (2016)

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