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What Does it Mean to be a Knowledgeable, Passionate and Skilled Online Educator? Teacher Presence as part of the Online Learning Model at CSU

Speaker
Dr Lindy Cro -Piggin,
Mr Ged Bourke, Mr Lachlan Kalache

Charles Sturt University

Abstract
A mixed methods evaluation of the broad scale implementation of an innovative model for improved online teaching and learning at Charles Sturt University found that students clearly rated Teacher Presence as the most important component of the 7 elements articulated in the model. Further, Teacher Presence was identified as vital to a successful online learning experience. In this paper the planning tools and technologies that underpin successful teacher presence will be outlined and the impact of the role of the teacher on good learning design and learning experiences will be explored. A number of small changes that can trigger significant gains in student perceptions of quality will also be explored and future implications for the ongoing enhancement of teaching presence outlined.

Theories of Online and Distance Education, such as Moore’s theory of transactional distance and Garrison’s Community of Inquiry, amongst others, have long espoused the importance of the teacher in an educational experience from both a structural and social/cognitive viewpoint. Informed by such research, in 2015 Charles Sturt University’s Division of Learning and Teaching developed the Online Learning Model (OLM), with the element ‘Teacher Presence’ featuring prominently. This framework provided a channel for articulating an engagement- driven approach to online teaching and learning for CSU teaching practitioners. The development and implementation of the OLM model itself formed part of a broader strategic plan, aimed at ensuring competitiveness and viability in the increasingly saturated online learning market.

The most commonly used tools to enhance teacher presence in this project included; recorded lectures, podcasts, embedded videos, dynamic landing pages, virtual classrooms / online meetings, as well as many other tools and approaches aimed at creating the sense of the teacher’s presence. Additionally, proactive approaches to online teacher presence may facilitate a more balanced synchronous and asynchronous teacher workload, by exploiting the affordances of the diverse educational technologies available.CSU continues to explore the enormous potential associated with investment in enhancing teacher efficacy in online learning and teaching.