Creating a Positive Presence in an Online Course

This is a guest post from one of our Master Reviewers.

Creating a Positive Presence in an Online Course

Author: Susan Schlicht, St. Cloud Technical and Community College

Quality Matters General Standard 1: Course Overview and Introduction
The overall design of the course is made clear to the student at the beginning of the course. The course introduction sets the tone for the course, lets students know what to expect, and provides guidance to ensure they get off to a good start. .

Do you wonder how to be a successful online teacher? Do you wonder how your own unique personality and teaching style will come across online? Do these concerns prevent you from attempting to teach online? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions then you need to know that there is nothing to fear – and much to gain. You too can teach online and maintain your personal touch!

Personal touch!  Perhaps you are thinking this topic does not apply to you. After all, your job is to be mindful of the course material that needs to be learned. However, it is a good practice for online instructors to also be mindful of creating a positive and visible presence in their courses.  Students want to know that a “real” teacher is available and is in charge of their online classroom.

Take a moment to reflect on how you typically introduce yourself to a group of students at the beginning of the semester. What methods do you usually use to get students off to the right start?

What strategies might work to present yourself positively in an online environment?  Starting the course with Introductions sets your positive presence and encourages discussions and collaboration.

In an online course, asserting teaching presence requires intentional preparation and action on your part in terms of the design, facilitation, and direction of learning.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Create your own Course Welcome using a Welcome Letter Template
    This Welcome Template can give you a great start to creating a Welcome Message for your own course. Consider emailing this to your students or setting it up as an Intelligent Agent to be sent before class starts, along with uploading a copy to the Course Information area.
  2. Create a Welcome Video
    Use your “Welcome” as a script for your own Welcome video. Creating a video of your own might sound like an overwhelming task; perhaps you have technical support on your campus to help get you started. There are many ways to include videos in your course.
    Using a short video clip of yourself helps the students to hold a picture of you in their mind’s eye when communicating with you online. In essence you become a real person to your virtual, but very real, students.  Here is one sample I post on YouTube
  1. Create a Welcome Discussion Forum

A sample script might be:
“Take some time to introduce yourself to the other students in the Introduce Yourself Discussion Forum. In this Discussion you will meet the other students enrolled in this course. So then, tell us about yourself. What program are you enrolled in? Any family information you care to share? Are there any special events going on in your life? What are your hobbies or special interests? Are you a pet owner?”

  1. Encourage students to complete the Learner Profile in D2L.
    Be sure to include a photo of yourself in your own D2L Profile. Students will always be able to “see” you when communicating in your online course.

What else can you, as the online instructor, do to create your own positive presence in your online course? Have fun while communicating your passion and enthusiasm for your course content and encouraging your students to succeed.

For additional reading on this topic, go to

Faculty Focus Special Report February 2012
Online Student Engagement Tools and Strategies


This article is adapted from a course module Susan Engel (a colleague at SCTCC) and I designed for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). About three years ago, the MnSCU Center for Teaching and Learning, along with Minnesota Online, invited us to author a module called “Creating Opportunities for Engagement and Interaction” to be included in a training course for MnSCU faculty. That course is now titled “Quality Online Teaching.”

Susan Schlicht is an online psychology instructor at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.  She is currently a Certified QM Master Reviewer and has had two of her own courses go through the review process to become QM-certified courses.

One thought on “Creating a Positive Presence in an Online Course

  1. Great thoughts on creating a positive presence, online! In Welcome Discussions, I’ve used a “3/60 View of You” strategy which provides the facilitator and students the opportunity to introduce themselves using ‘3’ descriptors that can be read in ’60’ seconds. I find this a nice way to get to know each other through a brief, fun way.

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