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Online Learning

Creating a Sense of Presence in Online Teaching

Creating a Sense of Presence in Online Teaching: How to “Be There” for Distance Learners.  Lehman, Rosemary M. and Conceicao, Simone C.O., Jossey-Bass (2010).

Reviewed by Cheri Johnson, Sociology

The focus of Creating a Sense of Presence in Online Teaching is one of the most basic, but perhaps most overlooked, aspects of effective online education:  helping the instructor rectify the lack of physical presence in the virtual classroom.  Faculty entering the world of online learning tend to be primarily concerned about course content and how it can be transmitted effectively to students in the absence of a face-to-face learning environment, but pay little attention to the human element.  The result is often a content-heavy course, requiring extensive reading and periodic progress reports to the instructor—but with limited interaction with either the instructor or other students.  Small wonder that online students so frequently report feelings of isolation, alienation, and a lack of engagement with the course and their fellow participants!

A strong and consistent sense of presence in an online course is not essential to the delivery of course content, but it is often what distinguishes a class in which students plod along completing requirements and one in which the majority are fully involved and invested in their learning.  Lehman and Conceicao discuss “presence” as a multi-dimensional concept:  what it is, why it’s important, what is lost when there is no sense of presence, and what is gained by students and faculty alike when we attend to it and allow our presence to infuse our online courses.  The authors address these issues from the perspectives of both instructor and student, emphasizing the mutual benefits accrued through incorporating the presence of instructors in addition to peer learners.  They also provide a selection of activities to help you include a sense of presence in your online course.  Contents of this book include:

  • The Role of Presence in the Online Environment:  what it is, how it’s important
  • Ways in Which Presence Can Be Experienced:  “being there” for the online learner
  • Designing Your Online Course with a Sense of Presence:  preparing yourself as well as preparing your course to include your own presence
  • Activities That Create a Sense of Presence in Your Online Course:  activities you can use before, during, and at the termination of your course
  • Are You There?  Making Sense of Presence:  some cases and examples