Full control of the time and place of study is both the advantage and drawback of eLearning. Offering students more freedom could also raise their study attitude and self-motivation. However, the lack of human interaction, especially instructor presence in online learning, could cause a feeling of isolation and discouragement in the students.
Is instructor presence that important?
In a traditional face-to-face classroom, instructor presence seems to not matter because it is a physical thing. However, this is not the case for online courses since most of the time, there is no lecturer-student interaction. The problem is severe for those online classes designed with mere presentations without any signs of lecturers.
What happens if a student doesn’t feel the presence of instructor in a virtual classroom?
Isolation. Students are likely to feel less involved in the online learning community, which seems true given their solitude working on the subject. They may assume that the lecturer doesn’t care. The lack of support could lead to demotivation and discouragement in studying, especially for those enrolled solely in online programs. In the end, it has a negative effect on their satisfaction, experiences and learning outcomes.
Enhancing the instructor presence in online learning is vital for both educators and learners.
How to improve instructor presence in online learning?
1. Introduction video
Let’s start with an introduction video. This type of video could do much more than welcoming students. The intro gives online learners an overall look of what they could gain in the course. It also allows you to present your self and your passion for education, which in fact is such a nice way to let the students get to know whom they are learning from.
2. Video-based teaching materials
You also could involve yourself in more aspects of the course with self-recorded educational videos. Instead of making students read a long presentation, you should convert everything into bite-size video clips. Including audio and video throughout lectures provides multiple ways for students to engage with content and creates a strong instructor presence. Sometimes all you need to produce high quality is just a proper script and a camera. The rest is simple: Act natural as if you are in a traditional class when filming.
However, if you are using animated learning videos, in which almost everything is an illustrated cartoon, you could enhance your presence by recording a voice-over. Let them hear you! Using your own voice may be much better than the voice of a strange actor. Prepare a proper audio script and you are good to go.
Producing videos are not that hard. Sometimes all it takes to make a great live-action video is just the courage to stand in front of the camera and teach naturally. Same goes with animations when there are various types of cloud-based software to help people with no animating background. If you are teaching with slides only, you may need to consider adding more videos to your course.
3. Participate in discussion board
The discussion board is a great place to promote the learning community and enhance the instructor-student connection. Putting a little extra effort in could help you gain a better trust from the students. Responding to student’s questions shows that you care for them and you are willing to support them. Sometimes you don’t need to be too academic, just save your time by writing in a more conversational way. Students are more likely to prefer an instructor who they can relate to. Moreover, this gives you good insights into the student’s learning process and understanding. This information is helpful for you to improve your course later.
4. Additional resources or personal stories
You could also enhance your presence by sharing interesting resources or personal stories related to the subject. It allows students to get to know you more, then improves the connection between you and your learners. The resources not only give them new online learning experiences but also help you maintain your ongoing presence.
5. Return email and phone messages promptly
Email and phone messages are two of the best direct ways to connect with your learners. You should give absent students a call to check on their situation and encourage them to go back to class. This act could improve the surprisingly low completion rates of online courses. When students feel that they are studying on their own and no one manages their learning, they are likely to feel demotivated and give up half-way.
6. Grade and return assignments
Nowadays, lots of LMSs provide instructional designers with an automatic grading system. Then the numbers may have much less meaning to both students and instructors. The numeric grades only evaluate learners’ performance, but not what they did wrong or how they could improve it. Adding comments on students’ work or giving additional resources for more information could not only enhance the sense of support and caring but also improve learning outcomes with motivation.
These simple solutions above all reinforce that there are real humans and support within the learning management systems. Increasing the instructor presence with technologies could make students feel more involved and engaged in the course.