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Saint Paul College A Community & Technical College

​Building Community and Instructor Presence

Being an active presence in an online class isn't as intuitive as when we are face-to-face. In this workshop we will look at simple ways an instructor can create a strong learning community in an online course. Learn how to build instructor presence which will engage students and bring everyone together.

Asynchronous Online Instruction​

Instructor Presence

  1. Establish yourself from the start of the course: place a personal welcome video in your first module.
  2. Continue this by having weekly or module intro videos that preview upcoming content. These can also be announcements.
  3. Respond to some but not all discussion posts (ex. summary of key points, encouragement) so students for student-instructor interaction and to promote student-student relationships.
  4. Set a clear communication/feedback policy including response times and availability.
  5. (Advanced) Give video feedback. Record yourself marking up an assigned draft. The feedback with your voice may be less intimidating than if just written down. This is very time intensive so commit to it carefully.

Learning Community

  1. Establish connections: require student introductions. They can be informal ice breakers, sharing things in common in a discussion or video post.
  2. Have students share learning goals for the term/why they are taking the class in a discussion/video post.
  3. Encourage students to answer one another's questions (but be there to back them up or approve responses) in a FAQ forum.
  4. Ask for formative feedback on the course early and midway.
  5. (Advanced) Hold optional live announcements, discussions, or study groups. If your course is officially asynchronous, these MUST be optional and not part of a grade.
  6. (Advanced) Give students ownership of a module or session. This is probably not for beginner courses, but for 2nd year students try leaving space for student directed topics near the end of a course.
Live (Synchronous) Online Instruction

Instructor Presence

  1. Establish yourself from the start of the course: place a personal welcome video in your first module.
  2. Continue this by having weekly or module intro videos that preview upcoming content. These can also be announcements.
  3. Ask for formative feedback on the course early and midway.
  4. Set routines for live Zoom/video meetings like you would in a face-to-face class.

Learning Community

  1. Work with your students on the first day to co-create some 'Netiquette' rules together.
  2. Remind students to rename themselves (preferred name, pronouns, etc.​)
  3. Set a standard routine like you would in face-to-face classroom. For example, begin by displaying a prompt while students enter, and end with a reflective question or concept check.
  4. (Advanced) Consider a flipped class to minimizing lecture time during live Zoom meetings, saving them for discussion/active learning.
  5. Use Zoom tools effectively​
    • Review Non-verbal feedback/reactions
    • Create polls for live questioning or surveying
    • Decide whether you want students to be able to unmute themselves
    • Use Breakout Rooms (think/pair/share)
      • Tell students there’s an "Ask for help" button in the room if they need you
      • Your shared screen will no longer be visible in the room, so use the 'broadcast' function to talk to them
    • Assign or ask for a volunteer student to become a co-host. They can monitor the chat, mute and unmute students, etc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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