Garrison, Anderson & Archer’s community of inquiry model provides a helpful framework for conceptualizing the components of a rich learning experience. Deeper research into each of the types of “presence” identified in the model helps to clarify where instructors and instructional designers should invest time and resources in developing and teaching courses. Sheridan and Kelly, in the December 2010 Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, published the results of a study of student perceptions of what aspects of teaching presence are important to students.
The study used a questionnaire with 64 close-ended items. The findings are based on the responses of 65 students, primarily graduate students (82%). The top five items identified by students (based on median score) as important were:
- Makes course requirements clear;
- Clearly communicated important due dates/time frames for learning activities;
- Sets clear expectations for discussion participation;
- Provides clear instructions on how to participate in course learning activities;
- Provides timely feedback on assignments and projects
Items rated as less important by students included:
- Engages in “real time” chat sessions
- Provide a video that allows me to hear and see the instructor
- Reply to each individual student’s posts in the discussion area
The researchers also identified “a significant negative correlation between the number of online courses taken and the importance of chat sessions, the value that students place on this form of communication may wane as they acquire more online course experience.”
This study reinforces the importance of clear expectations and deadlines in an online course, and the important role the instructor has in providing timely feedback.