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Getting to


Establishing Instructor Presence

Dr. Michelle Kilburn,

Associate Professor, Criminal Justice

As an instructor who strives to make a

connection with all my students, I remember

staring at the blinking cursor on my computer

screen and thinking

“How are my students

going to know there is someone on the other

side of this computer? How will they know I

am really here and that I have not just ‘flipped

a switch” to start my course and am now

sitting on a beach somewhere while they

spend hours reading and working through

the material? By the end of the semester, will

they know their computer better than they

know me?”

Answering the question of how

to interact with students is a challenge for

many instructors, both veteran and rookie.

This short piece is a conglomeration of

literature review, personal experiences, and

best practices I have accrued as an online

instructor, master quality matters reviewer,

interim instructional designer, and former

director of Southeast Online.

At the basic level, Moore and Kearley (2005)

discuss three primary types of interaction

in distance education: student-to-content,

student-to-instructor, and student-to-student.

There is a discussion as to whether there

should be a fourth interaction, student-to-

interface (Gunawardena, 1994). Regardless,

framing your course from the perspective of

making sure your students interact with each

other, the content (or course materials) and

the instructor is a great way to assure you are

incorporating, not only your presence, but also

creating a sense of community within your

course. To effectively discuss how to establish

instructor presence, we are going to focus on

student-to-instructor interaction.