Dude, Where's My Prof? Creating Presence in the Online Classroom


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When it comes to instructor presence, different topics require different approaches. As instructor time can be limited, especially without a TA assigned to the course, special techniques were developed to facilitate the comfort and sense of presence students sought. This presentation illustrates how avatars and artwork, weekly faculty-written or filmed "columns," intro videos and Course Management System response mechanisms added a sense of instructor presence to courses in biology, journalism and social science.

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  • Students in online classes frequently complain about lack of instructor presence, not getting to know the person teaching them or feeling out of touch in the online realm. Today, students are in constant touch with one another via Facebook and mobile phones, making e-mail a “slow” means of communication. The courses discussed here were designed with the idea that the instructor would be present to the students, even when they weren’t logged into the computer, or typing a response to a message. The idea was for their presence to be felt every step of the way.
  • Dude, Where's My Prof? Creating Presence in the Online Classroom

    1. 1. Dude, Where’s My Prof? Establishing Presence in the Online Classroom Jessica Knott , MSU Virtual University Design and Technology Dr. Cathleen McGreal , MSU Department of Psychology Dr. Stephen Thomas , MSU Department of Zoology and Natural Science Professor Betsy Rau , MSU School of Journalism
    2. 2. Who Are We? Betsy Rau Stephen Thomas Cathleen McGreal Jessica Knott
    3. 3. Definitions of Presence Social – the ability of participants in a community to project themselves, socially and emotionally, as real people through a medium of communication. (Garrison and Anderson 2003). Teaching – the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educational worthwhile learning outcomes. (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, and Archer 2001). Cognitive – the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication. (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer 2001).
    4. 4. Research Findings “ Although research has indicated that distant students expected less nonverbal immediacy from telecourse teachers (and presumably even less from asynchronous online teachers) than on-site students expected … teacher immediacy and intimacy remain important correlates of student satisfaction and effective learning” (Russo and Benson 2005)
    5. 5. More Findings In their exploration of immediacy, LaRose and Whitten (2000) find that a dearth of student-instructor and student-student interaction is the leading concern of learners, and that many online courses fail to address it. Additionally, as highlighted in Russo and Benson, “learner motivation may suffer in Web courses because of a lack of teacher immediacy.”
    6. 6. How? The artist formerly known as “Tips and Tricks”
    7. 7. <ul><li>Customize design to content and instructor personality </li></ul><ul><li>Cascading Stylesheets </li></ul><ul><li>Photographs </li></ul><ul><li>Comic Life </li></ul><ul><li>Effective > Fancy </li></ul><ul><li>Engagement with students </li></ul>Design Tips
    8. 8. Communication Tips <ul><li>Send synthesis e-mails and invite students to respond in a discussion forum </li></ul><ul><li>Hold office hours online as you would in an office. Respond immediately to e-mails received at this time. </li></ul><ul><li>Adobe Connect offers “face-to-face” options for communication </li></ul><ul><li>Two words: Flip video </li></ul>
    9. 9. “ Tricks” <ul><li>Use built in tools when possible </li></ul><ul><li>There are many free tools available: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Jing (jingproject.com) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pixton (pixton.com) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wordle (wordle.net) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>GIMP (gimp.org) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Moodle (moodle.org) </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Examples in Action
    11. 11. ISB 202 <ul><li>Entry-level biology course for undergraduates </li></ul><ul><li>Instructor’s goal was to convey humor and lessen students’ fear of science </li></ul><ul><li>Key themes: exploration, comfort, humor, approachable </li></ul>
    12. 12. ISB 202 – Stephen Thomas
    13. 13. ISB 202 – Design
    14. 14. ISB 202 – Scientific Method
    15. 15. ISB 202 – Scientific Method
    16. 16. ISB 202 – Scientific Method
    17. 17. ISB 202 – Scientific Method
    18. 18. ISS 318 <ul><li>Mid-level integrated studies course, looking at lifespan development across different cultures </li></ul><ul><li>Instructor’s goal was to immerse students in thought, without overwhelming them </li></ul><ul><li>Key themes: critical thinking, cultural sensitivity, exploration </li></ul>
    19. 19. ISS 318 - Design
    20. 20. ISS 318 – Cultural Dialogs
    21. 21. ISS 318 – Cultural Dialogs
    22. 22. ISS 318 – Simulations <ul><li>Mindstorm </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.janssen.com/janssen/mindstorm_video.html </li></ul>Ayiti: The Cost of Life http://www.gamelab.com/game/ayiti
    23. 23. JRN 308 <ul><li>Graduate level Journalism course focused on newspaper and yearbook advising </li></ul><ul><li>Instructor’s goal was to facilitate sharing of ideas in a fun and open environment </li></ul><ul><li>Key themes: sharing, discussion, networking </li></ul>
    24. 24. JRN 308 - Design <ul><li>Simple design </li></ul><ul><li>Use of video </li></ul>
    25. 25. JRN 308 – Welcome Videos
    26. 26. JRN 308 – Discussion Forums <ul><li>“ Live chats” </li></ul><ul><li>Networking </li></ul><ul><li>“ Help!” </li></ul>
    27. 27. Data/Feedback “ Love your humor, Betsy. Love your human-ness that filters through everything you do. You express confidence and experience. Awesome!” – Betsy’s Journalism course “ The online chat has helped me make connections with the other students that I didn't think were possible in an on-line course.” – Betsy’s Journalism course  
    28. 28. Data/Feedback “ Thank you, thank you, and thank you again for making this class so interactive and enjoyable. Without hands-on material, science isn't my forte whatsoever, and because of the constant interaction through activities, discussion forums, simulations, instant messaging, and e-mail, I thoroughly understood all concepts presented to me, and had a little fun along the way!” – Stephen’s Integrative Studies in Biology course  
    29. 29. Data/Feedback “ In Prof. McGreal's class, I don't think I had ever had so much easy hands-on learning… Prof. McGreal is most likely the only professor whom I have encountered that has used ANGEL to the highest extent. Her expertise on ANGEL made it much easier for me to learn and pass her course with a 4.0!” – Cathleen’s Integrative Studies in Social Science course  
    30. 30. Data/Feedback <ul><li>A thank you note received by Dr. McGreal following the conclusion of her ISS 318 course. </li></ul>Picture from the front
    31. 31. Caveats and Lessons Learned <ul><li>No matter how present you are, some students will still prefer the face-to-face environment. </li></ul><ul><li>Make sure your design elements “fit” </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t go overboard </li></ul><ul><li>Letting your students “know” you does not guarantee reciprocation. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t expect perfection in the first run of the course </li></ul>
    32. 32. References and Further Reading Garrison, D. R., and T. Anderson. (2003). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. New York: Routledge Falmer. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2001). Critical Thinking and Computer Conferencing:A Model and Tool to Assess Cognitive Presence. American Journal of Distance Education . LaRose, R., & Whitten, P. (2000). Re-thinking instructional immediacy for web courses: a social cognitive exploration. Communication Education, 49 (4), 320-338. Tyler, Joshua R., and John C. Tang. (2003 ). &quot;When Can I Expect an Email Response? A Study of Rhythms in Email Usage.&quot; Ecscw 2003 . New York: Springer. 239-58. The Adult Learner: An Eduventures Perspective . (2008). Boston, MA: Eduventures. “ Teaching the Teachers to Teach Online.&quot; Ascilite - Home . 10 Apr. 2009 <http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet20/wilson.html>. Richardson, Jennifer C., and Karen Swan. (2003). &quot;Examining Social Presence IN Online Courses in Relation to Students' Perceived Learning and Satisfaction.&quot; Journal for Asynchonous Learning Networks 7: 68-88.
    33. 33. Questions? Comments? Contact me at: [email_address] Twitter - @jlknott www.jessknott.com/tlt09.ppt