Expanded guide: Build your online presence
Online “presence” can be most simply described as “being there,” and refers to the degree to which students and instructors feel that the others in the course are “real.” Compared to face-to-face courses, presence in a remote teaching setting must be much more deliberately created.
Build your online presence using these strategies:
- Establish your presence at multiple points in your course
- Create opportunities for students to get to know other students
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Establishing and sustaining your presence throughout the length of the course creates a supportive learning environment for your students.
- Write a getting-acquainted post on Canvas before the course begins. This can help build social presence and launch the feeling of community. Consider including a photo, a short biography, a link to your favorite professional publication, and other favorite activities or hobbies. Invite your TAs to present a similar introduction. ♦1, 2, 3
- Send regular announcements or post regularly on a course blog to let students know you are there. Consider “checking in” online more often for smaller amounts of time (e.g., daily for 15 minutes) to join the discussion, answer queries, and guide students. Consider adding a touch of humor by sending a light-hearted meme on Fridays.
- Use question-and-answer boards or discussion forums where students can go for help from each other and from you and your TAs.
- Prepare discussion posts that invite student responses, questions, discussions, and reflections. Model for students how to participate in an online discussion and clarify discussion guidelines in order to nurture a rich conversation online.
- Schedule synchronous interactions outside of class time, such as online office hours and question-and-answer sessions, using Zoom, Google Meet, or other Canvas tools.
- Reach out individually to students, as possible. You might send short emails to a few students per week. This individual touch can help students know that you see and care about them individually. This can be particularly meaningful for students who are struggling in the course.
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Creating opportunities for students to know you and each other can promote motivation and create a sense of community.
- Ask students to share something about themselves in an introductory discussion forum post or webinar so they can get to know their fellow students. Encourage them to also share why they are taking this course and any particular topics they are interested in. The simple act of sharing helps students connect on several levels.
- Use polls or surveys in class to help students get a sense of who their classmates are and share the aggregated information with the class. You might ask: "How many have taken a statistics class before this one?"; "how many of you are familiar coding in R?"; "how many of you grew up outside of California" etc.
- Build opportunities for short student-to-student interactions in each class. Consider assigning short icebreakers at the beginning of each class by giving simple “get to know you” prompts for discussion. Give some guidance in how to engage in these interactions. For example, suggest, but don’t require, turning on their cameras if they feel comfortable and taking turns at talking by going in alphabetical order by first name for the first round of conversation.
- Put students into small teams early in a course so students can get to know each other and feel like part of a community. Provide guidelines on how they can work effectively as part of a team. The AAC&U VALUE Rubric provides some language to set guidelines: https://www.aacu.org/value/rubrics/teamwork.
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