Teacher Presence Online


Extract from Issue#33 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

Teacher Presence

By: Ged Bourke

CSU Division of Learning & Teaching

Source: Learning Online Unit: OLM Educator Hub

Student awareness of the presence of a passionate, knowledgeable and skilled online teacher improves student confidence, supporting independent learning and socialisation of the learning experience. This aspect of high quality and engaging online teaching and learning has been encapsulated in the element of Teacher Presence within CSU’s Online Learning Model (OLM).

A mixed method evaluation of the OLM project has found student engagement was increased and the student perception of quality correlated with the presence of the elements in the model. Both staff and students identified enhanced teacher presence as a key element of the online teaching and learning experience.

Teacher Presence can take many forms and doesn’t rely solely on the teacher ‘doing more’. However, considered planning and consideration of the needs of students and the particular demands of the content or discipline areas underpin teacher presence. Garrison, Anderson & Archer (2000) proposed not one ‘teacher presence’ but rather contended that ‘teaching presence’ was an important, but interconnected aspect of a ‘Community of Inquiry’ model, whereby the teacher had important roles to play across several aspects –

  • selecting and ‘curating’ content,
  • designing well considered and purposeful teaching,
  • learning and assessment activities,
  • establishing and setting a climate conducive to the task of learning at hand by cultivating both the social aspects of learning via interpersonal relationships and
  • providing students with the cognitive tools to engage with and in new learning.

Moore (1993) in his Theory of Transactional Distance also proposed that the teacher held a vital position in minimising a perceived ‘distance’ that ‘correspondence’ or ‘distance education’ students often felt in the completion of their studies. Moore’s theory maintained that the lower a student’s ‘autonomy’, the higher the level of ‘structure’ they needed, of which the teacher and their communication and teaching strategies form a vital part.

There are many tools that teachers can draw upon to enhance their teacher presence. A number of researchers have noted that teacher photographs, voice snapshots or welcome videos integrated within the online materials can be an important strategy for highlighting teacher presence, and these approaches have certainly proved popular within the OLM.

Other considerations for online Teacher Presence:

  • in subject materials, include PowerPoint presentations, audio/video mini-lectures, personal insights (Swan et al, 2008, p.3)
  • in virtual learning environments, the inclusion of audio and video material has positive impacts for all three kinds of presence defined within the Community of Inquiry model (see Learning Community diagram below) (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007, p. 168)
  • although teaching presence is most commonly set in synchronous or asynchronous activities of the virtual classroom, it can also be set through fixed formats such as … audio-, video-, or text-based presentations” (Anderson (2008, p.359).
  • for teacher presence within subject content, “people perceive some communication media as having a higher degree of social presence (e.g., video) than other communication media (e.g., audio)”(Lowenthal, 2010).

  • the use of video and audio content are now well-recognised strategies to convey telepresence, teacher presence, social presence and teacher immediacy.

Many of the practices for enhanced teacher presence in CSU’s OLM are based on the recognition that regular online communication can bolster student awareness of the support and availability of the teacher and humanise the expectations around learning activities and assessment.
Furthermore, as alluded to by Moore, many activities carried out under the element of Teacher Presence within the OLM have enabled the teacher to support the development of learning communities for purposeful interaction between students.

Check out these strategies for Teacher Presence, with in practice examples and case studies:


Anderson, T. (2008). Teaching in an online learning context. In T. Anderson (Ed.), Theory and practice of online learning (pp. 343-365). Edmonton, AB: AU Press.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education model. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(3), 157-172. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2007.04.001

Lowenthal, P. R. (2010). Social presence. In S. Dasgupta (Ed.), Social computing: Concepts, methodologies, tools, and applications (Vol. 1, pp. 129-136). Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference (IGI Global).

Moore, M. G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.) Theoretical principles of distance education. New York: Routledge.

Swan, K., Shea, P., Richardson, J., Ice, P., Garrison, D., Cleveland-Innes, M., et al. (2008). Validating a measurement tool of presence in online communities of inquiry. E-mentor, 2(24), 1-12. Retrieved from http://www.e-mentor.edu.pl/artykul/index/numer/24/id/543