Student Perceptions of Instructor Communication and Instructor Presence Online

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University of Alabama Libraries

The purpose of this study was to contextualize how the communication modes I used, and my presence shape the experiences of students within a single online course. I conducted a qualitative case study in which I collected data from three sources: in-depth qualitative interviews with nine former students of the online course GBA 300, fifteen comments from two student opinions of instruction (SOI) reports, and over two hundred comments from the GBA 300 course GroupMe chat. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis and interpreted through the lens of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework with specific focus on instructor presence. The findings of this study suggested that students' experiences were positively shaped by the communication modes I used within the course. The communication modes created an environment for interaction, learning, and participation among students and between students and me. Of the five communication modes used within the study, the discussion board, GroupMe chat, and synchronous video lectures were consistently described. These three communication modes created frequent dialogue exchange and an interactive social environment for students that facilitated students' learning, provided an opportunity for collaboration among students and between students and I, and created a course environment for open communication. The findings of this study also suggested that my presence positively shaped students' online course experiences by allowing for greater instructor immediacy and eliciting feelings of mattering among students. My social and pedagogical interaction with students was facilitated by the various communication modes creating an environment for self-disclosure, consistent feedback, and care within the learning environment. These indicators of instructor presence elicited feelings of mattering where students felt valued, appreciated, and important within the course. By doing so, instructors can create an opportunity for students to develop interpersonal connections and collaborate with their peers and their instructor. This study provided descriptive data and served as an in-depth example that provides a potential solution to the challenges of isolation and lack of participation faced by students within the online learning environment.

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