Presence is one aspect of teaching online that is very different from face-to-face teaching. Presence can be most simply described as “being there,” and refers to the degree to which you feel that you and the people you are working with are “real”. We rarely think about presence in face-to-face courses, but it must be deliberately created in online classes (see the Teaching Phases in Online and Hybrid Courses for more about this). It is important for students to feel the presence of their instructor as well as of other students online, which can help prevent feelings of isolation and promote motivation. This is especially important during course beginnings when students need to feel connected to the instructor and to the other students.
The concept of “creating presence” online is aligned with the constructivist view of learning and teaching, where learners have to be actively involved creating knowledge and meaning through interacting with the content as well as interacting with others (e.g., the instructor, other students). In Stavredes’s (2011) words, “learning occurs within a community of inquiry through the interaction of cognitive, social, and teaching presence. Cognitive presence is the ability of learners to construct knowledge together as they engage in interactions. Social presence contributes to the learning experience because it establishes learners as individuals and helps build interpersonal relationships that can have a positive impact on engagement in learning activities. Teaching presence includes how an instructor facilitates the learning activities to support social and cognitive presence to help learners achieve course outcomes” (p. 105).
Aragon, S. R. (2010). Creating social presence in online environments. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education (San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2003), 57-68.
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. M. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. John Wiley & Sons.
Picciano, A. G. (2002). Beyond student perceptions: Issues of interaction, presence, and performance in an online course. Journal of Asynchronous learning networks, 6(1), 21-40.
Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective online teaching: Foundations and strategies for student success. John Wiley & Sons.