Creating Presence

I think we live in a time that we can place our faces and sounds on the internet for our students to see and hear. We can demonstrate things for them using screen-captures and we can tell them about course content in a way that has more impact than text. I am not saying do not use text, I am saying that we live in a time when we can add to the text they read. We can improve the experience. We can address audio learners and communicate using video. We can do that today and should be doing it.

I think it is important to participate in the classes and to create useful and meaningful moments of time for students. I think we can do that today. This conclusion from a paper titled The Missing Instructor: Does E-learning Promote Absenteeism? It was written by By Glenn Gordon Smith and Marypat Taveras, Stony Brook University.

The physical remoteness of e-learning makes interaction with the instructor the most important factor in student satisfaction. It is that same physical remoteness which makes instructors a little more lax and a little less accountable. Academe needs to acknowledge the problem and start seeking honest answers. The software infrastructure necessary for e-learning makes instructor accountability technically easy. However, prevailing attitudes about academic freedom make tacking the problem politically complicated.

New models of e-learning emphasizing peer evaluation might ease the laboriousness of instructor-student one-to-one text communication. New more intelligent software tools might make the online instructors’ job more lively. For example, suppose providing instructor feedback to student online postings was as simple as a few strokes of a magic marker circling and annotating text passages, math notation, and diagrams. This would be possible if online documents used a metaphor of clear plastic “transparent overlays,” one text, another graphic, etc. This is certainly technically feasible, but it challenges entrenched notions of what an online document is and forces educational institutions and course management companies to revisit “sunk costs,” huge economic investments in existing technical solutions.

Imaginative instructional design and new technical tools provide some hope for the future. However, the ultimate answer to lack of instructor presence is the human solution: a more conscientious and dedicated instructor.”

Indiana University and Curtis Bonk have put together a wonderful resource for teachers here and his video on instructor presence is here (requires Quicktime)