Be Present in Your Online Course – Part 1

Written by: Kelley Senkowski, Online Design Consultant

How do you ‘be there’ in your course so your student’s feel that they have a present instructor, as in a face-to-face class? To take it a step further, how do your students know that they have a real person as a teacher or instructor? How does your online course differ from an independent study, self-taught online learning experience?

What is social presence and how do you put it in an online course?social-presence-quote

fatigued-1822678_1920A student needs to have interaction with their instructor and their classmates in order to perceive that the learning experience is an actual classroom, similar to a face-to-face course. How does an instructor build their social presence and that of the students participating? In this blog entry, we will look at one component you can use to create social presence and we will have future blog entries on other ways to create social presence.

Creating a social presence in your course can be beneficial to you in several ways, such as:

  • Student engagement for improved participation and learning
  • Better student performance due to feedback received and opportunities for questions
  • Increased opportunity for program retention
  • HLC compliance for a high quality online course

Video Use

Videos can be used in many places throughout your course to create social presence.

Welcome Video

When an instructor stands in front of the class on the first day, he or she introduces oneself, tells a bit about their background, shares something personal for students’ to relate to, explains what the main assignments are, and describes what the main take-away of the course will be. This needs to be in the first Welcome section of the online course. It doesn’t have to be a professional video, anymore that one needs a stand-in celebrity for their in person class introduction. The students need to feel like the instructor is a real person. When adding your Welcome/Introduction video into your online course, include the following components:

  1. Introduce yourself (name, course title, background, personal fact)
  2. State the main takeaway of the course (what will students know or be able to do for their future use after the course)
  3. State how your course is laid out (ie., there are 3 papers and one final project and presentation, where to find items…)
  4. Direct students how to get started (ie., please go through each section of the course to familiarize yourself with where to find items, and then work through the week one material)

Module/Unit Videos

Screen Shot 2019-10-14 at 3.58.35 PMRegardless of how your course is designed, you can add an overview video for each section/module/unit just as you would in person in front of your class. Students need to experience your persona (mannerisms, intonations, voice tone) to feel your social presence. Students need to feel comfortable to approach you with course questions when they are frustrated, confused, behind, instead of going to the program director or advisor, or dropping out altogether.

You matter! Your content expertise and experience are needed and students take your course to learn from you so show them who you are, and share what you know. You are valuable.

By, Kelley E.B. Senkowski


Oh, Catherine & N. Bailenson, Jeremy & F. Welch, Gregory. (2018). A Systematic Review of Social Presence: Definition, Antecedents, and Implications. Frontiers in Robotics and AI. 5. 10.3389/frobt.2018.00114.

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