Perception of Instructor Presence and Its Effects on Learning Experience in Online Classes

Chongwoo Park, Dong-gook Kim
Journal of Information Technology Education: Research  •  Volume 19  •  2020  •  pp. 475-488

One of the most critical challenges to the student learning experience in online classes would be providing interactions between students and instructors as effective as in face-to-face learning. This study introduces perceived instructor presence as a way to promote such interactions and investigates its effects on student learning experience in online learning.

Drawing upon theories of constructivism and social presence, this study proposes a research model to explore the causal relationships from the interactivity of a communication tool to the perception of instructor presence and to student learning experiences such as engagement and satisfaction.

The survey method was used to collect data from online business classes where an interactive communication tool was required to use for class communication and collaboration. Partial Least Squares analysis was used as the primary data analysis tool.

This study introduces perceived instructor presence in the online learning context and empirically tests its effects on the online learning experience. This study also contributes to the online learning literature by confirming the constructivist’s point of view on learning that interactions lead to better learning experiences, in the online learning environment.

The study results show that the use of an interactive communication tool in online learning fosters strong student-instructor interactions and promotes students’ perceptions of instructor presence, which eventually enhances student engagement and satisfaction in online classes.

This study recommends practitioners (e.g., teachers and professors) to use more interactive communication tools such as Microsoft Teams and Slack to promote the instructor presence in their online classes, which ultimately increase student engagement and satisfaction. Practitioners are also recommended to develop and use any other teaching methods or activities that can increase perceived instructor presence, which has a direct impact on student engagement in online learning.

While the fellow researchers can take one of the future research directions in this paper, it is recommended to consider more fundamental approaches to the study of online learning. For example, the concept of presence is a radical difference when courses are moved from face-to-face to online learning. Future research could investigate how various types of presence can play differently in online learning.

Better learning experiences are likely to have a significant impact on society’s well-being, and the findings of this study suggest how student learning experiences can be improved in online classes. Furthermore, this is particularly useful when many face-to-face classes were forced to switch to online classes abruptly during the COVID-19 pandemic as many students, parents, and educators were concerned with online learning experiences.

A replication study with different communication tools in various courses would be good future research to support the generalizability of the findings. Another interesting future research is to employ other types of dependent variables, such as tool adoption and academic performance. It would be worth investigating how different types of learning experiences can be associated with various learning tools. As this study finds that an interactive communication tool is associated with student engagement, gamification can be associated with student enjoyment in online learning.

instructor presence, online learning, interactivity, engagement, satisfaction, Microsoft Teams
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