Teacher Presence in Synchronous Sessions

adobe - teacher presence

For students enrolled in an online course, it is easy to forget there is a live human being on the other end of the Internet. The synchronous session gives students a chance to interact with the teacher live, which can reduce feelings of isolation. Beyond the simple interaction, teachers can personalize their online classroom to increase their unique personal teaching presence.

Since teaching online at the Georgia Virtual School (GaVS), I’ve researched, studied, and experimented with my own synchronous sessions to increase student engagement and agency, and ways to reduce distractions and cognitive overload. Research shows synchronous sessions affect how satisfied students are with online learning and how useful the classes are. For instance, Velasquez et al. (2013) reported that a teacher frequently used Skype to reach out to students who were failing. The study adds that synchronous technology increases teacher presence in the online classroom: “the teacher is there—not in a general sense, but that the teacher is present at the time the student is working on the assignments. Furthermore, the presence was distinguished by the ability to “see” the student’s project and synchronously work with the student.” Video chat “reveals body language and tone of voice (Velasquez et al., 2013). One study on building the trust of students with special needs in an online learning environment states, “The respondents in the survey have repeatedly identified that the inclusion of a face-to-face opportunity and interactive social media could help foster their trust in an online course, in addition to the identified trust-inducing factors (Wang, 2014).

In the Spring, I created four posters/job-aids to help teachers with synchronous sessions and content. Here’s the first. Click to open in a separate window.

teacher-presence (1)


  • Bates, A.W. (Tony). (2015). Teaching in a Digital Age. Retrieved from https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/
  • Velasquez, A., Graham, C. R., & Osguthorpe, R. (2013). Caring in a Technology-Mediated Online High School Context. Distance Education, 34(1), 97-118. doi: 10.1080/01587919.2013.770435
  • Wang, Ye Diana. (2014). Building student trust in online learning environments. Distance Education, 35 (3), 345-359. doi: 10.1080/01587919.2015.955267

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