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Developing Presence in the Online Classroom

As an educator, moving from the physical classroom to the online classroom can be pretty jarring and disrupting. There are many differences between a face-to-face class and one conducted online such as the courses tend to be asynchronous (no set time to log in), there are no physical materials, and students tend to work on their own. For the teacher this leads to a very trend of being what I call the disappearing teacher. It is possible for the teacher of an online course to go through the course without ever speaking to any of their students. This phenomena is something that must be proactively countered. This article will discuss five strategies to overcome this and become a present teacher in the classroom.

  1. Interact with the class everyday
  2. Create and post an introductory video
  3. Schedule regular communications with all students
  4. Respond to forum posts
  5. Post mini-lecture lessons

Interact with the class everyday

Don’t be intimidated! This does not mean you have to be in the forum creating deep responses to student posts. It means touch the class in some way that students will notice each day. This could look something like:

Monday: Send out assignments for the week in an announcement post.

Tuesday: Return grades from an assignment from the previous week

Wednesday: Respond to a student post with a simple thanks for taking the time to share.

Thursday: Send a reminder via email that assignments are due on Sunday.

Friday: Post an encouraging image or quote for the students for the weekend.

There are many other points that you will interacting with the class as well, but making sure to do something simple everyday creates a feeling of presence for your students.

Create and post an introductory video

At the beginning of each course, record and post a custom video message that introduces yourself and the course. This does not have to be professionally done. In fact, by being less professional, the students will feel more connected to you as a teacher. One suggestion is to use your smartphone camera and do the recording while walking around outside or at the mall. This gives it a more personal feel.

Schedule regular communications with all students

Plan out regular communications at the beginning of the course. You can even go as far as writing them up and scheduling them to go out on certain days. This will lighten the communication load once the course is running, but also ensure that students are regularly hearing from you.

Respond to forum posts

Forum posting is a staple of online education and is the primary way students interact with each other and with you. Be careful not to stifle student to student communcation by responsing to individuals all the time. Instead, once you see a group discussion popping up, interact with it and ask some more leading questions to help students continue the conversation.

Post mini-lecture lessons

From time to time, interject in the weeks lesson a mini lecture recording of you as the teacher going over content for the week. Feel free to vary the format of these lectures. For one, maybe you are at your computer looking at a website or powerpoint. For another, maybe you are at the local coffee shop and recording it via you smartphone. However you do it, getting your face back in front of students periodically really shows that you care about the course and that you are gong through it with your students.