26 Online Instructor Presence and Engagement

In an online environment, it takes more intentionality to develop a sense of instructor presence since there are no face-to-face interactions [1]. As an online teacher, then, your visible presence while creating and facilitating an effective online community of learners is critical. Consider the following ways to be present, visible, and active in your course [2] [3] [4]:

  • Consider how you might be present in some way to students each, or nearly each, day:
    • Post weekly announcements or summaries
    • Provide timely feedback
    • Respond to discussion boards
    • Post general responses to groups and/or the whole class.
    • Use video, text or media to create a positive presence
    • If the instructor will be away from the course for an extended period, let students know
  • Be present as you create a trusting and collaborative learning environment where all feel invested, safe and motivated to learn.
    • Introduce yourself online
    • Help your students get to know you as a person and an expert
    • Provide opportunities for everyone in the class to talk about personal contexts
    • Ask students to introduce themselves and create individual profiles
  • Be present as you guide learners with clear, consistent expectations, feedback, and communication.
    • Set clear expectations for group work and assignments
    • Include any learning resources required to complete the activity

  1. Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective online teaching: Foundations and strategies for student success. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  2. Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R.-M. (2016). The online teaching survival guide: simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  3. Udermann, B., (June 2019).7 Strategies to Promote Community in Online Courses. Faculty Focus. Higher Ed Teaching & Learning.
  4. Martin, J. (2019). Building relationships and increasing engagement in the virtual classroom: Practical tools for the online instructor. Journal of Educators Online, 16(1).


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Guidelines for Online Teaching and Design Copyright © by TeachingSupport@UMN.edu and Faculty Development for Online Teaching task group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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