Instructor Presence in the Online Classroom

I think instructor presence is critical to student engagement, for all the obvious reasons. I’ve occasionally had students connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter, those are passive engagements. I once, in a face-to-face class, had a student post on my Facebook wall, during class.1

But part of the problem is maintaining active engagement. I sometimes worry that students who are in online classes are there to reduce the active engagement requirement. For instance, I used to do a weekly one-hour video chat, like a virtual office hours. And I set it up so you could see it live if we were online. Also, others could just click the button and join during class, if they wished. Anyway, over like 4 semesters of doing this, I only have 3 students total show up. It got frustrating, so I stopped eventually.

To an extent, the social media features inside the online classroom are self-defeating, since they are not always on, like Facebook and Twitter. But as a society, we have decided it may not be appropriate to like/friend/follow our instructors and students. It’s kind of a catch 22.

Image by Fuelrefuel / Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Under the circumstances, it was entirely appropriate. It was the last class before the exam and I had review material only. Precisely two students came to class. They suggested they should get extra credit. I posted on Facebook that if anyone agreed they should get extra credit, I would grant it. One of the two students hunted down the post and agreed. I gave them extra credit.