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Every Online Instructor Needs a Strong Virtual Presence

Every Online Instructor Needs a Strong Virtual Presence

An instructor’s presence is a critical component of any classroom environment. Within a traditional classroom the instructor is physically present and it is that presence that maintains social interactions and builds relationships with the students. These direct interactions are absent from the online classroom environment; however, an online instructor can develop a strong virtual presence by utilizing effective indirect interactions.

Within a traditional college campus classroom an instructor provides the direct delivery of information, along with student interactions and participation in live, synchronous class discussions. An instructor can gauge the level of student motivation and adapt the instructional methods used based upon what is physically observed. Also visible to the instructor is the student’s level of engagement and participation in the class and they are able to monitor, guide, and discuss the student’s performance, while addressing any potential issues.

An online classroom environment requires an instructor to develop a new type of classroom presence, with indirect methods of presenting information and participation in asynchronous classroom discussions. For the online instructor, relationships between students and the instructor are often based upon written communication, without the benefit of verbal communication or follow-up. The online instructor also becomes responsible for guiding the learner as they work in this technologically enabled environment, changing the nature of instruction from a teacher who transmits knowledge to an instructor who facilitates processes.

An instructor can guide development of online classroom relationships and interactions by creating an environment that is conducive to and supportive of productive communication. Within a technology-enabled learning platform an instructional presence is possible when the instructor is actively present in class discussions and reactively responds to classroom conditions.

Another important component of an effective online presence is the instructor’s availability. In order for learners to feel connected to the classroom environment they need to know that their instructor is available on a regular basis. Creating a virtual presence also means more than an occasional check-in with the class; a strong instructional presence must include the instructor’s active engagement and participation in the class.

An instructor that wants to work in a technologically enabled learning platform has the ability to develop a strong virtual presence by adapting traditional facilitation methods. For instructors who are used to a physical classroom they may find that new techniques are now required. Without the physical presence of an instructor, online facilitation occurs through the process of communication, feedback, and relationship-building.