5 Ways to Increase your Online Instructor Presence

University student viewing online course with instructor presence using laptop and listening to music on headphones

We introduced the important role of instructors in online courses in Instructor Presence: An Introduction to Why it Matters. Instructor presence in online education has been shown to improve the experiences of students enrolled. Interpersonal interaction in online courses also makes a difference in predicting student grades.

How can faculty incorporate opportunities for interaction, and promote engagement in their online courses? A good way to begin is by examining the course goals in relation to the assignments students are completing. Regardless of the academic subject or method of course delivery, knowing what you want students to get out of the class is key to creating assignments that meet those objectives. This helps in determining where instructor guidance may be most necessary, deciding what content to cover, and in finding additional resources to include for students.

Whether you’re teaching online for the first time or looking for ways to enhance a current course, here are a few practical ways to make your presence felt in your online course:

  1. Add your picture to your Blackboard Profile

    A course with anonymous gray icons can feel lonely for everybody. Build a learning community by adding your picture and encourage your students to do the same. User pictures will appear throughout the course, such as when posting to a discussion forum.

  2. Participate in discussions

    Many online courses use the discussion tool, but a back-and-forth discussion doesn’t always emerge. Leave your own reactions to student posts during the week. Instructor accounts are identified on the discussion forum with a “verified” orange icon.

    Tip: take advantage of the Announcements tool

    If you have a large class or like giving general feedback, try the Announcements tool. Share weekly highlights or takeaways, and help guide students in their learning by sending periodic announcements.

  3. Add video introductions

    Turn your written welcome message into a creative welcome video at our state-of-the-art multimedia studio. While you’re there, create short introduction videos for your weekly modules and clarify upcoming assignments and expectations. In addition to strengthening your course presence, videos also provide students with a different way to engage with content.

  4. Host synchronous meetings

    Adobe Connect can be used in a variety of ways, such as for virtual office hours, lectures, student presentations, or exam reviews. A benefit of hosting synchronous meetings is receiving live feedback and questions from students. Meetings can also be recorded for those who cannot attend to add flexibility.

  5. Use the Feedback to Learner option

    Leave a few words of encouragement or suggestions for improvement when grading assignments in the Grade Center.

    Tip: use a rubric

    Have a large class or find yourself posting the same feedback? Use a rubric to provide feedback to students automatically. Rubrics also help outline assignment expectations.

Have questions on how to use any of the above features to enhance your course presence? Reach out to your Instructional Designer to discuss and explore other options for your class. 

Erika Huezo was a Senior Instructional Designer at FIU Online. She joined FIU Online in 2010 as a Course Developer, helping to create an introduction to online teaching course for faculty and assisted with the department’s implementation of the Quality Matters (QM) program standards. Erika worked closely with faculty to create engaging learning environments and kept current with instructional theories, tools, and trends.