Instructor's Experiences of Teaching Presence Practices in Structured Online Environments

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

The study focused on instructors' emerging teaching presence practices in structured online environments. In a structured online environment, course content is prescribed for the instructor while the instructor's role to inspire intellectual curiosity is not prescribed. What are the intentions of instructors when establishing teaching presence in a structured online environment?


Janice M. Orcutt, Ed.S., Ph.D., is an Online/Distance Learning Instructional Specialist (ODL IS) at The University of the West Indies Open Campus responsible for professional development programmes for adjunct facilitators. She has been involved in online communities for 40 years and served in online higher education institutions in roles including course developer, instructor, and administrator over the last 20 years. Previous speaking engagements included OLC Innovate 2018, OLC Accelerate 2016, and conferences sponsored by Pearson Learning (CiTE) and the Society for Applied Learning Technology (SALT).

Extended Abstract

In online graduate education, the course climate is greatly influenced by the presence, availability and supportive nature of the instructor and can generate a positive online learning experience for students (Cox-Davenport, 2014; Kaufmann, Sellnow & Frisby, 2015). Presence is not established by merely following a set of prescribed actions that demonstrate availability and supportiveness in the online course. A presence mindset must be acquired to maintain teaching and learning 'in the zone'. The presence mindset includes a strategic workflow of effective practices that lead to co-construction of the intellectual climate shared by the instructor and students in the online course. For distinct pedagogies to emerge, the nature of teaching presence, the transformation of the practices instructors engage in, and the competencies required to perform the tasks of the instructor must be understood (Baran, Correia, & Thompson, 2013). The essences of teaching presence practices that emerge in structured online environments are unknown. While the course content is prescribed for the instructor in the structured online course, the instructor's role to inspire intellectual curiosity is not prescribed. What inspires instructors to reach beyond prescribed pedagogies and competencies that are related to teaching presence is the focus of this study.

Presentation Goal

Framed in the theoretical perspective of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) model, insights from the study will be shared of the perceptions and intentions of successful instructors in establishing teaching presence in a structured online environment. The presentation will provide insights from a temporal perspective and a vocabulary for teaching presence to describe the pedagogical choices taken to establish an intellectual climate in the structured online environment.


The goals of this study were to qualitatively assess the processes utilized by instructors when establishing teaching presence and to learn how their processes influenced the development of an intellectual climate within a structured or prescribed online classroom format. The overarching question guiding this study was: • In a structured online environment, how do instructors establish teaching presence and inspire intellectual curiosity within the courses they teach?

A collective case study was conducted using the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) method, relying on in-depth semi-structured interviews with six participants teaching at an institution that prescribed course delivery within a specific format.

The presentation will include preliminary findings from the following six emergent themes from the analysis of the collective case: Instructor Profile; Practices in Establishing Teaching Presence; Intentions of Instructors; Influence on Intellectual Climate; The Overarching Research Question; Nature of Teaching Presence.

We wish to inspire attendees to think about teaching presence strategies that help instructors and students stay 'in the zone' of teaching and learning.


Baran, E., Correia, A.P., & Thompson, A.D. (2013). Tracing successful online teaching in higher education: Voices of exemplary online teachers. Teachers College Record, 115(3), 1-41.

Cox-Davenport, R.A. (2014). A grounded theory of faculty’s use of humanization to create online course climate. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 32(1), 16-24.

Kaufmann, R., Sellnow, D.D., & Frisby, B.N. (2015). The development and validation of the online learning climate scale(OLCS), Communication Education, 1-15.