Students who participate in traditional face-to-face courses have the opportunity to contribute to informal interactions with their instructors and classmates. However, these important exchanges do not always translate adequately into the virtual classroom, leaving students to feel that they are missing out on the interpersonal benefits of the traditional classroom. Although it is more difficult to engage in informal interaction in the virtual classroom, it is paramount as it contributes to overall student success. Moreover, students expect that a virtual classroom will integrate formal and informal activities where they are able to “e-see” their instructors and classmates every time they log in. In order for instructors to implement engaging informal interaction, they need to adopt virtual presence through the growth of an energetic classroom, utilizing tactics that increase and highlight their visibility in the course.
With the development of highly interactive technologies, increasing an instructor's virtual presence in the classroom is possible. This paper describes how two distance learning administrators’ motivated and encouraged remote faculty to leave behind the impersonal virtual classroom and project their presence into every "corner" of the classroom. In the short term this initiative produced the following improvements: 1) increased communication (informal and formal) between distance faculty and their deans, 2) increased media content in course shells, and 3) increased participation of distance faculty in curriculum and course development.
Access to a media center and faculty course shells.
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