Due to the shift to performance-based funding in many states, colleges and universities have sharpened their focus on student retention. Because of this, I have sought out information about best practices in retaining students, in particular online students, to help do my fair share in this effort for the schools where I teach. While I found many articles about the importance of social presence, one of the more interesting discoveries was from a chapter in Trust in Organizations on the concept called “swift trust.” Although it is mostly put into practice and studied in workplace settings, it certainly applies to education, too.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Online students need to feel an instructor presence in their classes. Thorough explanations and effective communication help fulfill this need and can transform a mediocre online course into a great one—and it all starts with the syllabus.
As an adjunct professor and one who works daily with faculty in helping them understand online education, I have noticed and heard of increasing numbers of professors going missing in action (MIA) while teaching their online course. This is particularly disturbing since engagement is the number one characteristic that faculty must strive for when teaching from a distance.
As instructors, promoting learning is, or at least should be, our primary task. As an online instructor, I must enforce deadlines, respond to requests for accommodations, post announcements, provide guidance and clarity, assess student performance, provide feedback, and post grades. Instructors have a variety of duties inside and outside the classroom to meet the standards required by the university, yet our primary mission should remain ensuring that students are gaining new knowledge.
Online instructors need to be intentional about creating a sense of presence in their courses so that students know that somebody is leading their educational experience. According to Larry Ragan, director of instructional design and development for Penn State’s World Campus, this sense of presence consists of three dimensions:
The majority of us teach the way we were taught growing up (Southern Regional Education Board, 2009). This presents a challenge for online faculty, who most likely received their education in a traditional, brick and mortar school. Online instruction is much different from face-to-face instruction. Over the past nine years, I have discovered four basic elements that contribute to being an effective online teacher.
An online course is like walking into a foreign land with an entire map laid out, but having no sense of the land’s origin or how to navigate the terrain. How the instructor formats and interacts with the class will ultimately determine the student’s travel experience. The purpose of this article is to provide an understanding of how the elements of an online course are integrated such that they form a cohesive whole that creates easy travel based upon instructor presence, appropriate feedback, and easy navigation for students.
Balancing Act: Managing Instructor Presence and Workload When Creating an Interactive Community of Learners
Increasingly, online educators are faced with two key directives that are critical for student success and retention: increasing instructor presence and building a community of learners.