Online teaching presence

The relationship between you and your students is crucial to the learning process and student success. As we move to more online teaching, the strategies we use in the classroom are not necessarily available to us in the same way. One of the most obvious changes is more asynchronous, text-based interaction. However, you are still the facilitator of cognitive and social processes for the students to realise their own personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes. This is what is meant by teaching presence.

In short, it involves

  • teaching design and organisation
  • facilitation of discourse
  • direct teaching activities.

Teaching presence is what binds and connects the social and cognitive activities together for effective learning.

Teaching design and organisation

Considering the link between course aims and outcomes, learning outcomes, assessments and teaching resources is vital. Students need to be able to clearly and easily make meaning from their journey through the learning activities, assessments and other instructional material in the topic. Previous articles on assessment and creative higher order learning activities have explored some of these links and how you can approach this process.

Tip: Align your topic’s learning activities and assessment with the topic and course learning outcomes.

Facilitation of discourse

When students actively participate in discussions and collaboration with their peers and teachers, they can think more deeply about material covered. It allows them to personalise and expand upon content. This is more than just responding to a few forum posts. It involves progressing stalled discussions, drawing out agreement and disagreement, making connections to the literature, content and other posts and generally showing yourself to be present in the discussions, just as you would in the classroom.

Tip: Promote productive discussion in your topic by giving detailed instruction on how and why students should post in discussion forums, posing relevant topical questions, finding areas of consensus, responding to students’ posts and moderating discussions.

Direct teaching activities

In class, we teach students directly and frequently. Online, think about how coherent your content is and what the student’s journey through the FLO site is like. How do they know what they are supposed to be doing at any given time? What kind of instruction are they getting and how often are you engaging with them? Do they know exactly what is expected of them in terms of completed work and interactions with others?

Tip: Use frequent video or audio posts to introduce new content, scaffold it and make connections between previous and future content (or practice). Make use of anecdotes on others (or your own) efforts to understand the content.

Think about your presence in your topic’s FLO site and how you are addressing each of these aspects of teacher presence.


Anderson, T. (2004). Teaching in an online learning context. Theory and practice of online learning273.

Cornelius-White, J. (2007). Learner-centered teacher-student relationships are effective: A meta-analysis. Review of educational research77(1), 113-143.

Garrison, D. R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks11(1), 61-72.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (1999). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The internet and higher education2(2-3), 87-105.


Written by Cassandra Hood
Academic Developer (Teaching Specialist) – CILT

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