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Being Present

June 8th, 2020

Why You Should Care about Instructor Presence

So, you may be asking, why is instructor presence something I should care about? Well, first and foremost, research indicates that instructor presence has a positive impact on students’ learning, motivation, and engagement in their courses (Dixson, 2010). Additionally, students, both resident and online, want to feel cared for and valued in the courses they take. In fact, Glazier (2016) found that students desire faculty who will support and communicate with them. Ultimately, when students feel like the instructor cares about their work, they’re more likely to be engaged in the course. 

In online courses, students need to know that a “real” person is behind the course and that the instructor cares about them and wants them to succeed. Unlike in face-to-face and hybrid courses, creating this type of presence can take a little bit of extra effort on the part of the instructor. Here are some straightforward methods for maintaining and increasing instructor presence in your courses. 

How You Can Develop Your Presence

Communicate Regularly

The first quick and easy step to maintaining instructor presence in your online course is to post regular announcements for students. Posting 2-3 announcements each week is good practice and can include an introduction announcement (introduces weekly material), a reminder announcement (reminding students of any due dates or upcoming events), and a summary announcement (summarizing and synthesizing the observations made throughout the week based on student interaction). Canvas makes it simple to send out announcements, and these can even be scheduled ahead of time, if you prefer. 

Provide Personalized Feedback

Providing timely and personal feedback on students’ work not only boosts your presence but also helps to build connections with your students. Students appreciate the quick turnaround time and feedback that is specific to their needs and work. Canvas’ Speedgrader provides an option to assess student work and give feedback simultaneously. 

Show Students You’re Real

Developing your instructor presence doesn’t always have to be text-based. Creating video-based announcements and feedback can show students that you are indeed a real person interested in communicating and connecting on a personal level. In these videos, feel free to use humor and anecdotes, and make authentic connections between course material and real-world applications.

Leverage Digital Tools 

Beyond Canvas, consider also leveraging Google Docs, annotation tools (like and Kami), and Slack. With Google-based class activities, you can use the commenting feature to be present in students’ work. This is especially useful in longer types of activities (i.e. projects) as you can give quick and formative feedback. Open annotation tools like (which is under consideration for adoption by Penn State) can be used for reading articles together as a class. These tools allow for the text to be annotated, subsequently creating a space where students can share thoughts and ask questions. The benefits from activities such as this have been well documented (i.e. Kalir, 2019). Lastly, platforms like Slack support instructor presence through their quick and easy communication features. 

Simply put, instructor presence leads to better learning experiences for students. Reach out to Stevie Rocco ( at the Dutton institute for more information or for help with instructor presence in your online course.  


Dixson, M. D. (2012). Creating effective student engagement in online courses: What do students find engaging? Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 10(2)

Glazier, R. A. (2016). Building rapport to improve retention and success in online classes. Journal of Political Science Education, 12(4), 437-456. doi:10.1080/15512169.2016.1155994

Kalir, J. H. (2019). Open web annotation as collaborative learning. First Monday, 24(6) doi:10.5210/fm.v24i6.9318