Teaching presence in online courses: The role of instructor-created video

The concept of teaching presence in online course environments originated from the Community of Inquiry framework of online and blended teaching, developed by Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson and Walter Archer from the University of Alberta Canada.  They define teaching presence as the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes” (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001).  While there are many elements supporting teaching presence, faculty are often interested in the impact of instructor-created videos on student learning.

Garrison's teaching presence

The effectiveness of video in supporting learning depends on a wide range of factors, but some broad guidelines can be helpful. For example, using video for whole-class feedback or guidance created specifically for one particular class or learning activity might be more impactful and less time-consuming to create than pre-scripted, canned videos. You may be curious as to the impact of your recorded visual presence within videos you create. In this video, the presenter reviews some research regarding the impact of having an instructor’s face in the video itself, as well as some general guidelines on the use of video.

In general with regards to instructor-created videos, we advise you to:

  • Focus on a specific assignment, on a challenging concept, or for a course or weekly overview
  • Use video for feedback or other facilitation
  • Use short clips or chunk into short clips (4-5 minutes)
  • Choose visuals that support the spoken narrative
  • Avoid using a talking head as the only visual
  • Do not be overly concerned about verbal mistakes
  • If you are creating videos to be used for multiple classes, consider how much time this may take and focus on issues or topics that are durable across longer periods (years) so that you can reuse the resource.

Additional resources on teaching presence:
Role of course design on teaching presence
One instructor’s point of view (research study)
Strategies for teaching presence

Lesley Instructors Publish in Journal “Literacy Research and Instruction”

Leah Van Vaerenewyck, a Lesley doctoral student, Valerie Shinas and Barbara Steckel, two literacy instructors from Lesley’s Graduate School of Education, have co-authored the article Sarah’s Story: One Teacher’s Enactment of TPACK+ in a History Classroom in the journal Literacy Research and Instruction.

The article focuses on the case study of one secondary History teacher and her approach to using technology in developing and supporting a socially-situated community of learners. The authors cite research suggesting teachers do not integrate technology within literacy or disciplinary curriculum at high levels (to support higher level cognitive skills, for example). They argue that to prepare students for higher education and employment, students must learn to think like scholars in the disciplines in which they study. For example, history students should be able to analyze primary documents, conduct research and synthesize information across various sources to draw conclusions. They argue that strategic and principled use of technology can support the development and maintenance of a community of learners focused on higher-level skill acquisition.

tpack visualization

TPACK, or Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge, is a framework built on Lee Shulman’s PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge). TPACK suggests the incorporation of technology with pedagogical content knowledge can produce more effective teaching. The authors suggest an expansion of the TPACK framework to include a sociocultural component and use this case study as empirical evidence to support an update to the TPACK model (TPACK+). They set out to “examine how sociocultural-oriented teacher knowledge, skills and beliefs intersect with TPACK in ways that leverage digital tools to create and sustain vibrant learning communities” (Van Vaerenewyck et al, 2017). Their observations showed strong evidence supporting this updated conceptualization of TPACK. The instructor’s use of learning technologies enabled the students to engage in authentic disciplinary discourse within socially situated learning experiences. The instructor was able to create a community of learners both within and beyond the boundaries of the physical classroom. Students engaged collaboratively in sophisticated ways, demonstrating that learning can be enhanced when embedded in socially situated experiences.

The authors call for further research examining in-service teachers’ skills and knowledge in relation to technology-integrated instruction to provide additional empirical support for their claim that the TPACK framework must be expanded.

Van Vaerenewyck, L. M., Shinas, V. H., & Steckel, B. (2017). Sarah’s Story: One Teacher’s Enactment of TPACK+ in a History Classroom. Literacy Research and Instruction56(2), 158-175.

Student Peer Review Research and Practice: A Cross-University Collaboration

A team of faculty, staff and students presented our research on student peer review at Community of Scholars Day: “Critique Creates Community? Effects of Peer Review and Metacognitive Strategies”. Inspired by the culture of critique at Lesley’s College of Art and Design (LUCAD) and with the shared goal of improving students’ analytical writing and other assignments, three faculty gathered a team to investigate peer review methods using a research-based approach. Our background research on peer review and the results of empirical research with our own students were closely aligned, revealing the many benefits of peer review that can be achieved under specific conditions. As a result of our inquiry, we have been revising our peer review processes, excited by the improvements seen thus far and the possibility for enhanced skills in many areas. Below, we will discuss key components and benefits of the peer review protocol we first drafted in the fall of 2016 and updated this year.

Our peer review protocol is driven by the Dialogic Feedback Cycle, which, importantly, includes extensive use of metacognitive learning strategies. Critical to the peer review process is the dynamic between students’ individual (internal) processing and pairs’ external collaborative processing (see Figure 1 below). Students work both individually and with peers in order to reflect on and revise their work.  Throughout this process, the writer drives the process, first by identifying their goals and requesting specific areas for feedback, and at the end, by explaining their choices for revising their work to the instructor.

Internal-External Dynamic of Peer Review process

Figure 1

Before engaging in peer review sessions, the instructor builds an environment that prepares students to participate in a committed way to this collaborative process (Step 1). This is achieved by discussing benefits and challenges; explaining and modeling peer review; and, most importantly, creating a trusting relationship among students.  Many students dislike or distrust the peer review process based on previous experience – including concerns that peers will not take their work seriously, or that they themselves will be unable to review peers’ work satisfactorily – so discussing students’ insecurities and establishing goals aids in building trust.  Peer review sessions focus on collaborative discussion, driven by the needs of the writer. (Step 2). Following peer review sessions, students determine the most valuable feedback to revise their work, and then explain to the instructor how they used feedback in their revisions. This closes the loop on the feedback cycle (Step 3).

There is a growing realization that self-evaluation skills should be a major goal of higher education (1). Learners’ ability to effectively evaluate their own work greatly enhances their success, both in school and later in the workplace (2).  Research on peer review in higher education and our own work with our students has shown a multitude of benefits, including improvements in collaborative skills; self-confidence, understanding of subject matter;  connection with peers; metacognition; and transfer of skills beyond the classroom (3). In our study, students reported a strong connection to peers from the peer review process, which may have implications for general education and retention. As we continue to apply research to our practice in the classroom, we invite interested faculty members to join us.

If you have questions about our work or would like to join us in our research and efforts to improve teaching practice via peer review, please contact Liv Cummins (lcummins2@lesley.edu).

Peer Review Team:
Research and Practice:

  • Summer Clark (Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, CLAS)
  • Liv Cummins (Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Drama, CLAS)
  • Kimberly Lowe (Assistant Professor of European History, CLAS)

Lesley student research: Casey Bogusz (CLAS)
Research lead for Lesley student research: Linda Pursley (Research and Assessment)
Background research support: John McCormick (eLIS):


  1. Boud, D., & Dochy, F. (2010). Assessment 2020. Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education.
  2. Nicol, D. (2010). The foundation for graduate attributes: Developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Scotland.
  3. Pearce, J., Mulder, R., & Baik, C. (2009). Involving students in peer review: Case studies and practical strategies for university teaching.

Using the Deep Web for Research

Doing research for a paper or project and relying only on Google can mean never seeing the most useful content. It may be locked behind a password. Fortunately, the Lesley Library has databases full of articles, ebooks, videos and images available to you as a Lesley student, faculty or staff person.

To get started, go to the ‘my library’ tab in myLesley and start searching. Don’t forget to Ask a Librarian if you need help.

Common Craft has over 80 videos like the one above. View their video library and contact elis@lesley.edu for assistance embedding it in your myLesley course.

Threshold Concepts: Helping Students Break through Learning Barriers

breakthrough-1027872_960_720Many, if not all instructors have seen their students struggle to grasp or even fail to understand a concept important to progressing in a course or subject area. This type of learning block can derail a student’s development and have a ripple effect in their studies, particularly if that concept is a building block for future learning. These types of concepts have been identified by researchers in a UK national research project into qualities of strong teaching and learning in the undergraduate disciplines (Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses). Erik Meyer and Ray Land, economics professors, found that certain concepts were held by economists that are central to mastering their subject, and that such “threshold concepts” had common features. The acquisition of threshold concepts has been likened to passing through a portal, where learners enter new conceptual territory. New ways of thinking or practicing, previously inaccessible, come into view for learners. Without these concepts, which often afford a transformed view of the subject landscape, students often cannot progress.

Further work over the past decade has examined threshold concepts in a wide range of subject areas, finding that identifying threshold concepts in an instructor’s discipline is a useful first step to tackling “troublesome knowledge”. A group of professors has created a process to increase student learning of threshold concepts called “Decoding the Disciplines”. The process begins with identifying learning bottlenecks making explicit tacit knowledge of experts (like professors) to help students master the mental actions needed for success.

For more information about Threshold Concepts and the Decoding the Disciplines model:
Decoding the Disciplines website
ETL Project (Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses)
International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
Threshold Concept in Practice (text)