Friday, October 19, 2007

Thoughts on Course Design and Instructor Presence

Have you ever walked into someone’s home and felt immediately comfortable and welcomed into the surroundings without your host ever saying a word? Can you imagine such a place or room now or the person(s) who inhabit it? In the physical world, color, design, layout, and décor can influence mood and affect. The attributes of a physical space may also provide an insight into the personality of the creator of that space.

One role of the online instructor is designer of the online learning experience. Through thoughtful application of good practices in course design, an instructor may use design elements to communicate their presence and personality to students. Consider, for example, how might an organized navigational structure, where each course element is linked by clear directional cues, positively impact not just a student’s learning experience but his or her perception of the instructor or their personality?

Online course construction also requires the instructor to build virtually what are often conveyed through physical or vocal cues such as, setting, tone, time parameters, communication style, etiquette – even humor or encouragement -- must all be designed and transferred quite consciously and deliberately into a primarily text based world. The questions of where to place information and in what form can become troublesome spots to navigate through.

How does one convert self from three-dimensions to virtual-dimensions? Perhaps the groundwork has been laid in part already by those adept enough to create entire literary worlds and characters that vibrate in a reader’s mind for a life time?

For those who would like to read more about this topic, you may wish to link to the articles below which provide research and information on how to increase instructor presence in the online classroom.

Assessing Teaching Presence in a Computer Conferencing Context This paper presents a tool developed for the purpose of assessing teaching presence in online courses that make use of computer conferencing, and preliminary results from the use of this tool.

A Follow-Up Investigation of "Teaching Presence" in the SUNY Learning Network, JALN 7(2)

Improving Your Teaching Presence in Distance Learning Courses

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