Teaching Presence on the Rise: Engaging Undergraduate Students in Online Courses

Kim Lacey and James Bowers (Saginaw Valley State)

Online learning has grown dramatically over the past few years and has become an increasing part of most higher education institutions’ overall strategy. However, due to the assumed lack of interaction and low engagement within online learning environments, hesitation over the quality of digital content delivery is often coupled with the addition of online courses. Although previous research has suggested that students’ perception of teaching presence in online courses is lower than that in traditional face-to-face courses, this presentation will provide new data indicating a shift away from that idea. While it is easy to verify and validate teaching presence in traditional classrooms (e.g., observing discussions), it is more challenging to measure teaching presence in an online environment due to the absence of any face-to-face contact. Since 2013, the presenters have been collecting data from several Criminal Justice and English courses taught completely online with no face-to-face contact between students and instructors. The results will demonstrate a strong teaching presence in an online course leads to increased student engagement. Therefore, teacher presence is a key factor in influencing student engagement, motivation and success in online courses. The presenters will describe their data collection which is based on the Community of Inquiry (COI) survey developed by Arbaugh et al (2008) and Shea and Bidjerano (2009). Implications of these results for pedagogical practice and research will be also discussed in this presentation.