Who’s Teaching this Course? Student Perceptions of Academic Control and Teaching Presence

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Researchers were puzzled: students declared their online instructor indispensible while at the same time claiming, “in an online course, you have to teach yourself.” The basis for student perceptions was surprising. A researcher/program director and a practitioner will co-present the nuanced power of and strategies for teaching presence.


Dr. Carol Gering is the Associate Vice Provost for Online and Distance Education at the University of Oregon (UO). She has more than twenty years experience in higher education and has taught a variety of online courses. Dr. Gering holds a Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary field of Online Education and Psychology, and an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction.

Extended Abstract


Presentation Format, Goals, and Audience Engagement

We will deliver the presentation with accompanying slides and allow time for questions and answers. The audience will be engaged by means of polling activities, discussions of experiences and best practices, and quick “turn to your neighbor” responses.

Outcomes and Goals:

  • Explore the complementary roles of perceived academic control and teaching presence
  • Disseminate research results
  • Provide examples of practice


Extended Abstract

A recent mixed-methods study of student success in online courses revealed a statistically significant association between final course grades and students’ level of perceived academic control. The study also found an association between final course grades and students’ perception of teaching presence. These findings were further investigated during personal interviews among students with documented success in online learning. Concepts related to perceived academic control and teaching presence came together as students who were interviewed discussed “teaching themselves” in online courses.

During interviews, students shared three components of teaching themselves: First, online students are more responsible for their own schedules and effort regulation than students in classroom courses. Second, students seemed to conflate teaching with oral presentation. Finally, students indicated that online courses required more independent research than in-person courses.

Concurrently, while this research study was being conducted, a faculty member at the same university was exploring methods for increasing teaching presence in her online courses. She discovered several means of increasing student engagement and satisfaction through personal communication practices. She also discovered many of these methods to be prohibitively time intensive and began to look for more scalable techniques!

This presentation will combine the perspectives of research and practice in pursuit of highly effective online teaching practices. Best practices, experiences, and barriers will be discussed among attendees. We will present research findings in student voice, with example quotes collected during interviews. Meanwhile, the faculty member will relate her parallel experience with implementing effective teacher-to-student communication strategies and discuss the results achieved in her online courses.