As far as the entire field of online education has come in the past two decades, fundamental aspects of what students need to thrive in an online course have stayed largely the same. So, if you’re an online instructor looking to make your teaching as effective as possible, there is still a great deal of value you can gain from looking back at research on the needs of online learners that drove the field in its formative years.
Perhaps there’s no better example than the concept of teaching presence—a key component of the Community of Inquiry Framework that was the subject of influential research in the early 2000s. If you’ve taught both in-person and online classes, then you’ll likely understand the concept of teaching presence more intuitively than most—and you’ll likely understand why it’s so important to keep that concept in mind when planning and teaching an online course.
But even if you’re already familiar with the idea of teaching presence, it’s worthwhile to keep learning about how—specifically and concretely—to incorporate it into your online teaching. That’s largely because the set of available tools that you can use to increase your teaching presence has progressed so rapidly in the years since that concept first emerged.
A big part of that change has come from the growing use of video within online courses. Not only has the development of video solutions created new possibilities for conveying information in interesting ways, but it has given educators new opportunities to build connections with their students.
That makes it especially valuable for today’s online instructors to learn new and innovative ways to use video in order to boost their teaching presence.
Prefer a video? Catch our recent webinar:
Increasing Teaching Presence with Video
What Is Teaching Presence?
The idea of teaching presence is part of the larger concept of a Community of Inquiry, which was developed as a way of ensuring that online higher education classes would offer high-quality learning experiences. Although these ideas were developed a little more than two decades ago, today they can offer guidance on using video as a medium for enhancing online education.
As its name suggests, the Community of Inquiry Framework views successful classes as relying on both educators and students working together cooperatively in order to construct knowledge. At the heart of this model are three elements that are essential in order to make a class effective:
- Social presence (meaning that students communicate and interact with each other, creating a sense of community as they show who they are and what they think).
- Cognitive presence (meaning that students construct knowledge from the class’s engagement with the subject matter).
- Teaching presence (meaning that the instructor plans and guides the class’s social and cognitive processes in order to help learners construct knowledge).
The model also examines and analyzes each of these components of a community of inquiry. For the realm of teaching presence, it lists three essential aspects of the instructor’s role:
- Design and organization
- Facilitation of discourse
- Direct instruction
Even today, these three aspects of teaching presence can offer useful guidance—including when it comes to incorporating video into online courses.
Design and Organization: How Can You Keep Your Remote Students on Track?
Simply put, the aspect of teaching presence that is focused on design and organization is all about making sure students don’t get lost within an online course. This entails explicitly conveying a general roadmap of the course, as well as more specific instructions as the class progresses.
Some examples of the types of information that you should convey to learners in this context include:
- Course topics
- Course objectives
- Course expectations (including both instructor and student responsibilities)
- Instructions for completing required coursework
- Due dates for coursework
- Reminders of upcoming assignments, expectations, and deadlines
Not only should this information help students to organize the knowledge they construct from the course, but it should also help them make sure to complete the coursework as required.
How Can Video Help with Design and Organization for Remote Learning?
Instead of just communicating with learners through written text, you can add videos to your online course in which you provide guideposts to keep your students on track. This should include videos at the beginning of the course in which you introduce its overall topics, structure, objectives, expectations, deadlines, and instructions. It should also include videos sprinkled throughout the course in which you give more specific information about what students should expect to learn from a given lesson and what they are expected to do in terms of coursework.
By conveying this kind of information through videos and not only written text, you can increase the sense of connectedness between you and your students. No less importantly, you can show that you’re invested in their progress in the course and are taking the time to speak to them. This approach also offers you an opportunity to contribute to the class’s overall social presence.
Facilitation of Discourse: How Can You Engage Your Students Constructively?
With the model of the community of inquiry focusing heavily on fostering educationally productive interactions between students, you (as the course instructor) play a critical role in facilitating their interactions. Your work here is mostly focused on making comments and asking questions to guide and enrich the conversations between your students.
More specifically, it’s important to make sure your comments and questions help you achieve several goals, including:
- Identifying areas of agreement and disagreement in ways that help students learn
- Guiding students toward an understanding of course topics
- Keeping students actively engaged and focused as they discuss course topics
- Encouraging students to explore new ideas related to course topics
- Enhancing the development of a sense of community among students
How Can Video Help with Facilitation of Discourse?
When the model of the community of inquiry was first developed, the idea of facilitation of discourse that was envisioned was one of communication through written messages. Today, in contrast, you can create a richer educational environment by using streaming video instead of just written text. This allows you to facilitate discourse in a way that engages students more fully and more socially.
By creating opportunities for your students to communicate and collaborate through video instead of just via written messages, you can strengthen the overall sense of community, while keeping the course topics at the center of that community. Then, you can participate in live conversations with your students, contributing questions and comments in order to achieve the overall goals of this aspect of teaching presence. This way, both your words and your choice of a channel for this discussion can work together to help you facilitate discourse effectively.
Direct Instruction: How Can You Provide Effective Feedback?
Within the model of the community of inquiry, the direct instruction aspect of your role as course instructor is all about giving constructive feedback. This could include agreeing with a student, disagreeing, adding more information to supplement their responses, asking follow-up questions, evaluating their work, and more.
While providing feedback is important within a traditional classroom, in an online course it becomes particularly critical. In the online context, giving feedback is a way of engaging with students, conveying interest in their progress, and showing that you’re listening to them. All of these factors make your feedback a powerful element of your teaching presence.
How Can Video Help with Direct Instruction?
Like facilitation of discourse, direct instruction was seen as a text-based endeavor when the model of the community of inquiry was first developed. But today, video offers you opportunities to enhance this aspect of your teaching presence. Within the Kaltura Video Experience Cloud for Education, for instance, you can quickly and easily record and post videos providing feedback to your students.
By giving feedback to your students via video rather than just through written text, you can convey your interest in their learning more clearly. You can also offer those learners a more engaging way to receive feedback. Perhaps most importantly, this approach gives you valuable opportunities to both motivate your students and strengthen your class’s overall sense of community.
This way, you can ensure that your direct instruction—together with the ways you convey your course’s organization and facilitate discourse—helps you create a strong and effective teaching presence within your online course.
RELATED: Achieving Universal Design for Learning (UDL) with Video