Instructor Presence Series Part 2: The Importance of Instructor Presence

Instructor on the computer screen giving a video lecture Instructor on the computer screen giving a video lecture
By:  Jill Gomez     E-Campus Logo

Note: This article is part two of the “Instructor Presence in the Online Classroom” series.

Instructor Presence in Online Classrooms Part 2: The Importance of Instructor Presence

Studies and articles invariably state that frequent and intentional online instructor presence has a positive effect on student engagement and satisfaction. But what are students’ impressions of the importance of instructor presence?

To gauge student perception of the importance of instructor presence, let’s consider what a group of Miami Regional students believe about their experiences with online classes when asked the following questions:


What differences exist when developing a relationship with a professor in an online course versus in a traditional face to face course? What are some ways that the student and instructor can better create and maintain a relationship in the online classroom?

In the survey, the students acknowledge a marked difference between the personal relationship they develop with professors in the two types of class delivery. For example, one student said that she had a chance to know two professors online first through their classes and then took those same professors’ classes face-to-face in a later semester. The student said, “I thought that I knew their personality and level of professionalism, but getting to know them and their experiences through face to face courses, I found that they are more relatable to myself and what my experiences are, so it was nice to be able to communicate with them.”

The students suggest that not only is it difficult to discern an instructor’s tone and attitude via online written communication, but that miscommunication can happen as well, which can set back interaction between student and instructor.

They offered several ways to remedy these relationship problems. The students suggested:

  • regular virtual meetings with small groups or individuals that could help instructors be more visible and promote personal interaction
  • more instructor visibility on discussion boards
  • student ownership in the relationship (One student acknowledged that students are also responsible in the creation and maintenance of a relationship with the instructor. He stated, “Creating a relationship with the professor may involve responding to them when they expect a response and staying on top of work.”)


How important is it that an instructor in an online course be present/visible? In what ways have past instructors demonstrated their presence in your online courses?

Across the board, the students think that instructor visibility is important to their success. One of the students surveyed commented that at Miami Regionals, he has already experienced success with instructors being visible in his courses. A few students suggested that they depend on instructors being available to answer questions, especially when working ahead in the class due to a busy lifestyle.

The students commented on a number of ways in which they’ve believed their previous instructors have been present such as:

  • sending weekly emails with reminders and feedback
  • synchronous meetings (recorded for students who were not available)
  • weekly virtual office hours
  • recorded lectures
  • general discussion board for class-related questions


How do you prefer that instructors communicate with students in an online course? How often and by what means?

Every student surveyed expressed openness to several forms of communication, whether it be through email, Canvas Announcements and Discussions, Speedgrader feedback, or virtual chat. The students had some great ideas including the following:

  • entire course schedule with due dates available at the beginning of the semester
  • modules that have consistent elements and assignments
  • weekly check-ins with struggling students on a case by case basis to help them succeed
  • synchronous sessions (One participant suggested that “...this helps instructors and student direct interaction. Doubts can be cleared and any issues can be addressed.”)


How do you prefer instructors deliver lecture material in an online course?

All respondents believe that, in online courses, instructors should include recorded lectures in Canvas. Though this can be time consuming initially on the instructor’s part, students feel it is important to have access to the lectures to view them multiple times and to use as review before assessments. They suggest that instructors also offer virtual office hours or synchronous Q&A sessions for discussion and for questions.

Other survey preferences include learning content from textbooks or open educational resources as well as synchronous lectures via Webex.


What does helpful instructor feedback in an online course look like to you? In what format?

Every response to the survey indicated that students value instructor feedback and offered suggestions as to different ways that professors can leave it. Here are some suggestions from the students:

  • Speedgrader feedback in Canvas (One participant advocates for feedback in different forms such as written and video feedback)
  • comments on discussion boards
  • email responses or Canvas announcements to address issues that the whole class may be having
  • video feedback from the instructor to avoid written comments that may be taken out of context or misconstrued
  • links to the text, instructor lecture, or outside resources to assist students who are not grasping the material



Thanks to the thoughtful considerations of the students who participated in the survey, it is evident that they, too, are invested in developing and maintaining a positive relationship with their online instructors. In the third part of this series, you’ll learn tips and tricks to expand your communication options and be more visible in the online environment.

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