Looking Back, Looking Forward

online presenceOnline Presence

Looking back on your experiences in ISWo as a participant and facilitator, and watching others facilitate, do you have any new ideas for establishing and maintaining your online presence? What seemed to work well? What didn't?

Successful online facilitators will tell you they have devised strategies for being there, without always having to be there (online, 24/7). Much of this has to do with understanding, anticipating and responding - in advance - to the needs of adult online learners.

Facilitators can establish and maintain presence in a number of ways, including:

  • post regular updates and notices to the class. Often, instructors post a weekly update on a Sunday evening, perhaps commenting on high points from the last week and setting up expectations and reminders for the coming week. Even though this information (the schedule, the list of tasks and readings) is in the course, it's good to demonstrate that you're moving through the course with them.
  • note particularly interesting developments in the forums
  • ask provocative questions
  • send individual emails
  • make references in assignment feedback or forums to notable postings a student has made
  • make all instructions very, very clear (i.e., anticipate needs)
  • use synchronous technologies at strategic points in the course, e.g., hold a Collaborate session, and record it for those who can't attend. some good times are:
    • at the beginning, to introduce yourself and establish expectations
    • at mid-point, to check in and see how students are doing (in many courses at RRU there is a mid-point survey too, which gives formative feedback while there is time to adjust strategies before the end of the course
    • before a complex or challenging team or individual assignment
    • as a way to prepare and review for the final exam
  • Use audio, video, and images to show and tell things to the students, including your course introduction
  • and last but never least, make it personal to the extent that works for you (e.g., using humour, sharing relevant anecdotes/stories from your professional experience, etc)

Making regular contributions to the course in a variety of ways assures students that you are present and attentive.

If you didn't already watch the "instructor presence" videos that we featured in the beginning of this course, now might be a good time to go back and view them (or view them again!).