Humanizing Online Instruction

Humanizing Online Instruction:

An analysis of the literature regarding

the Community of Inquiry


Ice, P., Curtis, R., Phillips, P. & Wells, J. (2007). Using Asynchronous Audio Feedback to Enhance Teaching Presence and Students’ Sense of Community. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(2), 3-25.

In this article, Ice et al. (2007) state student satisfaction is increased due to audio feedback as opposed to text feedback. The study consisted of a total of 27 graduate students. The researchers found that students were three times more likely to incorporate audio feedback from their instructor rather than text feedback. Not only did students prefer audio feedback they also indicated that they would use this characteristic as a deciding factor for taking future online courses. Students found that audio feedback was helpful in understanding nuances and decreased social distance. From the instructors’ perspective using audio feedback reduced time by 75% and it improved the quality of feedback by 255%. This technique also increased retention and helped facilitate deeper learning on content.


Akyol, Z,, & Garrison, D.R. (n.d.). The Development of a Community of Inquiry over Time in an Online Course: Understanding the Progression and Integration of Social, Cognitive, and Teaching Presence. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(3-4), 3-22. Retrieved from

Akyol and Garrison (n.d.) focused on how social, cognitive, and teaching presence evolved over time, as well as how these three presences influenced each other. The study sample was 16 graduate students. While the majority of the course was completely online and asynchronous, the instructor did host synchronous office hours and consisted of one synchronous Elluminate meeting. During this Elluminate meeting students were given the opportunity to ask questions in regards to course content and process. Akyol and Garrison generated transcripts based on the nine weekly discussion posts. In the coding process, social presence was coded on “affective expression, open communication, and group cohesion”. Cognitive presence was coded on “the triggering event, exploration, integration, and resolution.” “Teaching presence was coded for design and organization, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction” (p. 10). Akyol and Garrison found that students reported higher teaching presence and claimed that cognitive presence increased their level of their perceived learning. In addition, the research shows that affective expression decreased over the three time periods; however, group cohesion increased as affective expression decreased. Students also revealed a higher rate of integration contributions (using other resources to express and support their statements) than exploration. In addition, this study reified pervious research, it found “positive relationships between teaching presence and cognitive presence, teaching presence and perceived learning, teaching presence and satisfaction…[However,] compared to teaching presence, cognitive presence was found to be a more influential factor on students’ learning” (p.17).
Ke, F. (2010). Examining online teaching, cognitive, and social presence of adult students. Computers & Education, 55, 808-820, doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2010.03.013.

Using mixed methodology with a study sample of 10 online courses, Ke (2010) found that instructors that provided clear expectations and were flexible with assignment due dates were perceived by students to be more caring and approachable. Students found individual assignments to be more effective than group assignments. According to students, the top two desirable characteristics of online instructors are social presence and individual student attention. Furthermore, Ke (2010) found that instructor self-disclosure coupled with discussion post feedback on individual student’s posts strengthened the sense of connection and motivated students. Synchronous conference calls received mixed feelings in regards to effectiveness and had low attendance. Based on this research, instructors should stay away from synchronous sessions, provided feedback timeline, and create discussion boards that consist of student-instructor, student-student, and student-content interaction. Backing up other research, Ke found that high online presences and a sense of strong community were positively correlated with learning satisfaction.


Brinthaupt, T.M., Fisher, L.S., Gardner, J.G., Raffo, D.M., & Woodard, J.B. (2011). What the best online teachers should do. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7 (4), 515-524. Retrieved from

Brinthaupt et al conducted an analysis based on Ken Bain’s book “What the Best Colleges Teachers Do”. Brinthaupt et al concentrate on outlining behaviors and examples of how an online teacher can foster student engagement, stimulate intellectual development, and build rapport with students. Granszol and Grandzol (2006) argue that the quality and quantity of interactions among peers and faculty create a sense of community and fosters student engagement. Brinthaupt et al point out that student-student interaction based on quality and quantity correlate to student success. In addition, scholars highlight that lecturing should not be the only mode used as a teaching strategy because it increases learner isolation. To facilitate effective and desirable student engagement scholars recommend use of humor, multimedia (videos, podcasts, etc), blogs, and discussion forums. Brinthaupt et al. support Bain’s assumption that the best teachers explain their teaching philosophy and learning opportunities which ultimately helps the student “get to know” the instructor. Therefore, they recommend an introduction instructor video, presenting assignments as learning opportunities as opposed to course requirements, creating small group discussions and group projects. Posing provocative questions is key for stimulating intellectual development. It is recommended that these question be created by students and be posted in a discussion board. Lastly, posing interesting and creating interactive questions is ideal. For building rapport with students, it is recommended that instructors get to know their students by outlining a “getting started” section in the course in which the student is given the opportunity to self-disclose and learn about the instructor. The main instructor characteristic needed to build student rapport is flexibility. Overall, Brinthaupt et al reveal how different methodologies, techniques, and technologies can help create an ideal student learning environment and experience.


Nagel, L., & Kotze, T. (2010). Supersizing e-learning: What a COI survey reveals about teaching presence in a large online class. Internet and Higher Education, (13), 45-51.

Nagel and Kotze highlight the peer review success in the 2009 course, which consisted of an 87% course completion rate in a cohort of 186 students. This study consisted of a mixed methodology, qualitative and quantitative. This study revealed that consistency in course design is essential for creating a positive online experience for the student. Nagel and Kotze debunk the myth of an ideal class size and argue that an effective and desirable online learning experience is not something that will occur in the future but rather is already occurring. Due to the large number of students, the instructor created a document checker template that was used by 67% of the class. A peer review process was an addition to the previous course due to instructor time constraints. Student perceived the peer reviews as positive. In this investigation, three themes emerged based on student’s least favorite thing about the peer reveals; which were high feedback expectations, higher cognitive review feedback, and dissatisfaction with the lack of grade association to the peer review assignment. In addition, the peer reviews increased cognitive presence and a sense of student belonging.


Hostetter, C., & Busch, M. (2013). Community matters: Social presence and learning outcomes. Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13 (1), 11-86. Retrieved from

Hostetter and Busch examine the correlation between student’s learning outcome and social presence. They define social presence as degree to which an individual is perceived as a real person through mediated communication. The study sample consisted of 121 participants in completing a survey on social presence. In addition, an analysis was conducted on the student’s discussion posts. The analysis revealed that students found the discussion forums to help them create a feeling of belonging and community. The students that had the highest amount of social presence also had the highest scores on the Classroom Assessment Technique (p. 82). The research results reveal that students with high social presence did better on assessments. Ultimately, the researchers found that social presence increased student performance and argued it can be a helpful tool for retention purposes, as well as help build a sense of community.


Broup, J., West, R., & Graham, C. (2011). Improving online social presence through asynchronous video. Internet and Higher Education, (15), 195-203.

Broup, West, and Graham examined three courses to investigate if video-based strategies such as voice thread and YouTube influenced student perception of the instructors’ social presence, their perceptions social presence and their own. One of the instructors in this study used voice thread to facilitate student-instructor interaction, which consisted of a weekly topic discussion. The second instructor used VoiceThread to for instructor to small group interaction. The instructor used VoiceThread to explain assignments to students, facilitate small group discussion on course topics and to provide feedback to the completed projects. The third instructor used YouTube to give class announcements, introduce weekly assignments, and pose questions to student. This instructor required students to respond with videos. The results revealed that many students found the videos diminished the distance between them and their instructors. They found the videos were natural and helped clear up confusion on content. Students also found that instructor self-disclosure and fidelity made them feel like they “knew” the instructor. Furthermore, students attributed the videos to their feeling of closeness and sense of commitment to their instructors. Some student found the asynchronous videos to have some disadvantages because other students did not see their videos due to the assignment only required posting a video once a week. This found that this requirement of posting only once a week limited the possibility for having an extended conversation. Many students commented on the ability to see personality and learn about their peers’ background due to the asynchronous videos. Researchers found that some students did not feel connected to other students due to students used text instead of video, lack of emotional expression present in postings, and lack of student feedback or viewing of other students’ videos. The researchers advocate for the ability to have extended threaded conversations to help facilitate student-student and student-instructor interactions. In addition, they advocate for further research to be done on student performance as opposed to student perception.


Dunlap, J.C. & Lowenthal, P.R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20 (2).

Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) argue that Twitter is an effective and desirable way to enhance social presence. The researchers state that Twitter allowed students to present themselves as “real people”. While Dunlap and Lowenthal did not make it a class requirement to participate in tweeting, they found that students used Twitter for multiple purposes. Through Twitter the instructors and students were able to collaborate, brainstorm, solve problems, and create experiences. According to Dunlap and Lowenthal Twitter brings the following benefits to an online learning environment: it helps address student issues in a timely manner; it forces the participants to write concisely. Furthermore, due to Twitter being an open community, it influenced students to be thoughtful and sensitive to their audience. Because Twitter consists of a professional community, students were able to discuss and get feedback from textbook authors. Students were given support and resources that facilitated informal learning which they incorporated into their coursework. In addition, Twitter broke the bounds of a LMS structure and extended duration time for student-student as well as student-instructor interaction. Time consuming, additive and promotion of bad grammar are the drawbacks that the researchers outline. Dunlap and Lowenthal provide five guidelines for using Twitter in the classroom. The first guideline is the instructor should establish how using Twitter is helpful and relevant to the student. Second, the instructor must articulate clear student participation expectations. Third, the instructor should model effective Twitter use and be an active participant. Four, the instructor should encourage students to use information and resources provided in Twitter interactions into their coursework. The fifth guideline advocates for instructors to continue using twitter after the course is completed to achieve a desirable level of social presence as well as creating future interaction with past students.

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