Teaching presence in face-to-face and online learning environments

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Teaching presence in face-to-face and online learning environments
Thornam, Christine L
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Teaching ( lcsh )
Classroom environment ( lcsh )
Distance education ( lcsh )
Classroom environment ( fast )
Distance education ( fast )
Teaching ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 180-189).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Christine L. Thornam.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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Full Text
Christine L. Thornam
B.S.N., University of Nebraska Medical Center, 1979
M.N., University of Washington, 1987
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
? IAL f

2003 by Christine L. Thornam
All rights reserved.

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Degree by
Christine L. Thornam
Has been approved
Laura Goodwin


Thornam, Christine Lynette Baker (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and
Teaching Presence in Face-to-face and Online Learning Environments
Thesis directed by Professor Brent Wilson
The purpose of this research was to investigate the construct of
teaching presence and its manifestation in face-to-face and online learning
environments. The perception that there is no caring, human connection
with teachers in online learning environments deters many students from
enrolling in online courses, in effect, excluding many health care providers in
rural and remote areas of our country from an important way of obtaining
continuing education and advanced degrees.
Teaching presence is a complex social phenomenon, a function of
the communication and behavioral encounters that occur within a caring
teacher-student role relationship. Drawing from the known concept of
nursing presence, this research investigated teaching presence as an
ontological construct. Through in-depth interviewing of students and
teachers using focus group and case study methods, behavior and
communication patterns that teachers can use to know and be there for their
students were identified. Elucidating the construct of teaching presence in
face-to-face and online learning environments gives teachers tools to make
the paradigm shift from face-to-face teaching to online teaching.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's thesis,
recommend its publication.
Brent Wilson

To the health care providers who care for our mothers and brothers-
in-law, that they might have access to higher education that improves the
care they give to all sentient beings.

Thanks go to.....
My dissertation committee members Laura Goodwin, Gayle Preheim,
Marsha Wiggins-Frame, and in particular, to the chair of my committee,
Brent Wilson, for the thoughtful guidance you provided throughout my study
of teaching presence.
My doctoral program committee: Scott Grabinger, my advisor and Alan
Davis and Brent Wilson, my committee members, for guiding me through the
first three years of my program.
My teachers, for being present with me while I struggled to learn.
Everyone who said "I want to read your dissertation when it's done," for
knowing me well enough to know it would get done and believing in my
My many friends and wonderful family, but especially my husband, always
supportive, patient, a calming influence, thank you for being there with me,
by my side on this journey.

1. Introduction................................................1
Background and Rationale for the Study........................2
Research Questions............................................4
Preliminary Definition of Teaching Presence.................. 7
Guiding Conceptual Framework..................................9
Methods.................................................. 13
Phases of the Study.................................... 13
Data Analysis Strategies.................................16
Summary .....................................................17
2. Review of Literature .......................................20
Literature that Informed the Preliminary Definition..........21
Mediated Communications and Ontological Definitions
of Presence..............................................21
Presence in Mediated Communication....................23
Presence in Other Virtual Environments................27
Presence in Philosophy and Theology...................30
Presence in Nursing...................................35
The Guiding Conceptual Framework............................ 39
Effective Teachers and Caring Student-Teacher
Role Relationships.......................................40
Human Communication Theory...............................45
Verbal and Nonverbal Communication....................46
Dialogue............................................. 50
Ecology of Human Development........................... 55
Gaps in the Literature.................................. 55
Summary.................................................... 56

3. Methodology................................................... 58
Phases of the Inquiry..........................................58
Site and Subjects..............................................63
Site...................................................... 63
Subjects................................................... 64
Recruitment and Selection................................64
Characteristics of the Subjects..........................67
Sample of Student Study Subjects.........................68
Researcher Role.............................................. 72
Data Collection Procedures.....................................73
Data Sources................................................73
Data Collection Procedures................................. 75
Data Analysis Procedures.......................................78
Strengths and Potential Threats to the Integrity of the Study. 81
4. Description of Results......................................... 85
Focus Group Results............................................85
Results Related to the Preliminary Definition.............. 88
Refinements to the Definition............................96
Interview Guide.............................................97
Summary of Focus Group Results..............................98
Case Study Results............................................ 99
Individual Experiences of Teaching Presence............... 101
Interviews with Students............................... 102
Interviews with Teachers............................... 117
Conclusions from Student and Teacher Interviews........ 123
Teaching Presence in Two Learning Environments.............124
Conclusions from Two Learning Environments..............128
The Two Cases............................................. 129
Summary of Case Study Results..............................132
Summary...................................................... 132
5. Discussion.................................................... 135
Review of Key Processes during the Inquiry....................136
Discussion of Key Findings of the Study.......................138
Refinements to the Guiding Conceptual Framework.............. 142
Limitations of the Study......................................146

Strengths of the Study..................................... 148
Implications for Practice...................................148
Recommendations for Future Research........................ 149
A. Subject Consent Form....................................152
B. Forms Used during Recruitment...........................155
C. Journal Articles and Web Link Distributed to Focus Group
D. Subject Demographics From...............................159
E. Instruments.............................................160
F. Examples of Five Teaching Presence Themes in
Nine Student Interviews................................. 164
REFERENCES................................................... 180

1. Guiding Conceptual Framework...................................12
2. Methods........................................................62
3. Key Processes Used to Develop and Refine a Description of the
Construct of Teaching Presence............................... 137
4. Guiding Conceptual Framework (Identical to Figure 1)..........143

1. Proposed Teaching Presence Themes with Associated Attitudes,
Actions and Beliefs .............................................. 54
2. Frequency of Themes and Selected Passages from Focus Group
Discussion .........................................................90
3. Revised Teaching Presence Themes Used in Individual Interviews ... 95
4. Five Themes Linked to Elements of the Definition...................97
5. Characteristics of Students in Case Studies.......................101
6. Frequency of Themes by Student during Interviews..................112
7. Student Reflections on Teaching Presence Approaching an
Ontological Experience.......................................... 116

Since ancient times, dialogue between a teacher and student has
been prized highly because it is crucial to exchanging ideas and
constructing meaning out of new knowledge, relating to students, and
developing an epistemological relationship (Bohm, 1996; Buber, 1958/1970;
Friere & Macedo, 1995). As teachers and students engage in dialogue with
each other in learning environments, something else often happens: a
caring role relationship develops between them (Hult, 1979). Students need
to feel that the teacher knows and is there with them competent to lead
and teach; caring and looking out for their best interests; and right there
keeping watch to make sure they are making progress. Teacher
communication that expresses being there for students and knowing them
within a caring role relationship is central to a construct I term "teaching
presence." The purpose of this study is to describe teaching presence,
particularly as it manifests in face-to-face and online learning environments.

Background and Rationale for the Study
As a nurse, I have long been interested in understanding the nature
of the nursing profession. Nurses are more than task managers. We enter
into caring relationships that include physically, psychologically, and
clinically being there by the side of our patients. Our relationships with
patients relate directly to the helping and healing obligations of the
profession. Being there with patients in a caring role relationship can
become a vehicle for desired health care outcomes, just as the various
treatments and procedures we administer when we are there physically and
psychologically, by the side of our patients. Inherent in the caring
relationship is our human relatedness to patients, or knowing them. I believe
being there for patients and knowing them in the form of nursing presence
are at the heart of nursing, and are central to my nursing role and identity.
As a nurse educator, I also reflect on the nature of the teaching
profession. Teachers too, are more than task managers (van Manen, 1991).
We also enter into caring relationships that include physically,
psychologically, and pedagogically being there by the side of our students.
Our relationships with students relate directly to the educational obligations
of the profession. Being there for students in a caring role relationship can
become a vehicle for desired academic outcomes (Teven & McCroskey,
1996), just as the various assignments and classroom instructions we

deliver to students. Inherent in the caring relationship is our human
relatedness to students, or knowing them. I believe being there for our
students and knowing them parallels nursing presence and is central to my
educator role and identity.
As a nurse and teacher, I watched technology's influence on
healthcare and education in the 1970s, '80s and '90s with hope and
anticipation. Technology improved clinical care and provided a wide array of
distance learning opportunities, benefiting patients and students
enormously. Patients received a higher quality of health care and students
gained unprecedented access to higher education because of technology.
However, the entry of technology into health and education had a negative
side effect on the interpersonal dimensions of communication for some
nurses and their patients, and some teachers and their students. It put
physical and psychological distance between them (Wolcott, 1996). Over the
past five years, I developed and delivered online nursing curricula and
reflected on the attenuation and occasionally, the loss of human relatedness
between teachers and students. Nurses and teachers find themselves
spending less time literally and perhaps more importantly, figuratively, by the
side of their patients and students. Because caring, human connections are
central to my professional roles and identities both as nurse and as teacher,
I fear losing them.

As I reflected on my own experience, I talked to online teachers and
students and something came clearly into my view. Some teachers and
students believed they were not losing the human connection in online
learning environments. I asked myself how some online teachers make a
human connection in spite of the limitations of the media. How do they
reduce the psychological distance and become present with their students in
online classes? How can I as an online teacher be present with students in
online classes? Because I am not physically there in the same way as a
classroom teacher, how can I relate to, connect with students, and be there
and know them using the various tools at my disposal? These questions
invite us to find new ways of being there and knowing our students, to find
ways of communicating and behaving online that are as good as or surpass
our face-to-face methods of making caring human connections with
students. We may be at risk of losing the caring, human connection in our
professional role relationships or we may be on the verge of discovering
new ways of making caring, human connections with students in online
learning environments.
Research Questions
The purpose of this study was to investigate the construct of teaching
presence. Two research questions guided the study. Primarily from the

student perspective, (1) What are the patterns of communication and
behavioral encounters between teachers and students that describe
teaching presence? and (2) To what extent does teaching presence
manifest similarly or differently in face-to-face and online learning
Why ask such questions? The perception that there is no caring,
human connection with teachers in online learning environments deters
many students from enrolling in online courses, particularly those in rural
and remote areas of our country. In effect, it excludes them from an
important means to higher education. Teachers are deterred from teaching
online courses, largely because many of the tools they use to get to know
students in face-to-face classrooms don't work very well in online learning
environments. We know that rather than using educational technology to
improve teaching and learning, teachers frequently adapt new technologies
to their old ways of operating (Cuban, 1986; Mergendoller, 1997), often
resulting in sub-optimal course quality. A basic assumption of this inquiry is
that we must resist simply adapting our ways of being there and knowing our
students in face-to-face learning environments to online learning
environments, or we are destined have sub-optimal teacher-student role
relationships in much the same way.

In the first decade of distributing online education, we learned that
successful pedagogy in the face-to-face learning environments rarely
translated directly into the online learning environment. As with pedagogy,
the way we establish online relationships that include a human connection
requires a paradigm shift. Applying successful strategies for building
teacher-student relationships from the face-to-face learning environment to
the online learning environment will not necessarily work if simply adapted to
the online learning environment. I expect to see the application of a different
set of communication skills and behaviors by teachers who know their
students and are there, with them in the online learning environment.
Elucidating the construct of teaching presence and then describing its
manifestation in face-to-face and online learning environments will help
teachers make a paradigm shift from face-to-face to online teacher-student
role relationship building by giving them specific behavior and
communication tools to use in their online encounters with students.
Educational technology enthusiasts and skeptics alike agree that online
learning environments will be hollow if teachers are not present
(Shneiderman, Borkowski, Alavi, & Norman, 1998) and that absence of a
caring role relationship with a teacher leaves students feeling
depersonalized, objectified and alone. Teachers who are present with
students in online learning environments may help students overcome some

of their reluctance toward online education and extend the benefits of
accessible online education to previously disenfranchised students. This
hope for a new way of relating to each other in online learning environments
makes investigation of teacher presence and study of its manifestation in
face-to-face and online learning environments imperative. We can learn
about teaching presence as the essence of a caring, teacher-student role
relationship by studying those who have experienced it.
Preliminary Definition of Teaching Presence
Through my review and synthesis of literature on presence from
nursing, philosophy and theology, and mediated communications along with
literature on teaching effectiveness, caring teacher-student role
relationships, and human communication, I formulated a preliminary
definition of teaching presence. Adding my personal study and practice of
nursing presence to what I learned from reviewing the literature, I arrived at
the following preliminary definition of teaching presence. Teaching presence
is an intersubjective experience during which a teacher and a student
willingly move together toward valued learning. By being there with the
student, the teacher reduces the students educational vulnerability and by
knowing the student, feelings of helplessness or abandonment are allayed.
Both submit to the power of the other to influence, penetrate and engage,

and are equally willing to be changed by the experience.
In addition to the preliminary definition, I made the following early
predictions of the process and potential outcomes of teaching presence.
Teaching presence is a dynamic experience that occurs in the context of
verbal and nonverbal dialogue in a caring teacher-student role relationship.
It develops through a history of communication and behavioral encounters -
whether face-to-face or virtual between teachers and students. As
teaching presence develops, there is a shared understanding of the roles,
expectations, and goals of each party that evolves and resonates between
them. To some extent, the teacher personifies the content; that is, the
teacher mediates or serves as a reference point as the student apprehends
new knowledge and appropriates it for future use.
Flow (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) may be experienced as both the
teacher and student are engrossed in their shared world of the educational
experience. There is a confluence of the teacher's and student's sense of
caring, respect, and trust for each other that is energizing and potentially
transformative. Students will tend to respond to their experience of teaching
presence by entering a social contract to fully engage with the teacher,
committing to learning and having a sustained memory of the experience.
Interestingly, students may move out of a position of dependency or

subordination to the teacher, and self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997) becomes a
prevailing feature of the students attitude in the learning environment.
This study proposed describing teaching presence, which I believe
transcends face-to-face and online instructional tasks and strategies, and
approaches ontological theories of caring, being there and knowing the
student. I will describe the construct of teaching presence in both learning
environments, primarily from the student perspective. My analysis of the
student descriptions of teaching presence as affirmed by teacher
descriptions will inform the continuing development and refinement of the
conceptual framework that guided the study.
Guiding Conceptual Framework
The organization and conduct of this descriptive inquiry began with
the construction of a guiding conceptual framework and a creative synthesis
of literature to gain a preliminary understanding of teaching presence.
Conceptual frameworks commonly "outline the kinds of things that are of
interest to study from various sources, the argued-for concepts and their
interrelationships regardless of their source [and] must ultimately be
defined and demonstrated in context in order to have any validity"
(Eisenhart, 1991, p. 211). This statement describes my use of a conceptual
framework because its primary purpose is to facilitate the comprehensive

investigation of the construct of teaching presence and to hold the
arguments about what is relevant to study. However, I deferred testing of the
validity of the framework until completion of the study and used the
framework primarily to guide this descriptive study. I will make
recommendations for refining and modifying the framework at the end of the
Theories of caring contributed to the guiding conceptual framework.
Two prominent views of caring theory are the feminist view (Noddings, 1981,
1984) and the phenomenological view (Merleau-Ponty, 1964), with other
caring theories representing some combination of these two views
(Mayeroff, 1971; Palmer, 1998; Watson, 1988). Two features of a caring
relationship are central to the preliminary definition of teaching presence:
mutual willingness to be there and knowing each other. Mutual willingness to
be there for students physically, psychologically, and pedagogically in
the relationship, available to and by the side of the other and knowing each
other through an interpersonal, human connection are crucial to
understanding teaching presence.
The frequent use of being there in definitions of presence derives
from French philosopher, Marcel and German existentialist, Heidegger
(Doona, Haggerty, & Chase, 1997) who used the German term dasein, or
being-there, to mean that the self is affirmed in its consciousness of others.

Knowing derives from the caring literature. Mayeroff (1971) described
knowing by saying that
To care for someone, I must know many things. I must
know, for example, who the other is, what his [sic]
powers and limitations are, what his needs are, and
what is conducive to his growth; I must know how to
respond to his needs, and what my own powers and
limitations are. (p. 9)
Bronfenbrenners (1979) theory of an ecology of human development lent a
systems perspective to the conceptual framework. Teachers and students
have a long history of encounters with family, friends, teachers, students,
and other people in their network of relationships, which they bring into the
teacher-student role relationship. Our memory of past interpersonal
encounters is crucial to our human relatedness to others (Bronfenbrenner,
1979; Goffman, 1961). Our personal and professional human relatedness
with others develops within an ecology of human development, as do our
epistemological and pedagogical values and beliefs. Figure 1 depicts the
guiding conceptual framework of this study.

Self Efficacy Socia|
Beliefs and
Ecology of Human
Beliefs and
Figure 1. Guiding Conceptual Framework.

This descriptive research investigated teaching presence and how it
manifested in face-to-face and online learning environments. Teaching
presence is a complex social phenomenon, a function of the communication
and behavioral encounters that occur within a caring teacher-student role
relationship. Because teaching presence is not only a complex social
phenomenon but also a little known phenomenon, qualitative approaches
such as focus groups and multiple revelatory case studies were appropriate
(Krueger & Casey, 2000; Marshall & Rossman, 1999; Merton, Fiske, &
Kendall, 1990; Yin, 1994).
Phases of the Study
The study had two phases. The first phase, pertaining to the first
research question, further described teaching presence through data
collected from a focus group discussion. The second phase drew from the
results of the first phase to address my second research question of
differences in teaching presence in face-to-face and online learning
environments, through data collected from two cases. In-depth interviewing
was my primary data collection strategy in both phases, providing the
necessary opportunity for immediate follow-up and clarification of the

informants' subjective views (Marshall & Rossman, 1999) of teaching
presence. The primary source of data was the transcripts of audio-recorded
focus group discussion and individual interviews with nursing students and
The focus group approach in the first phase gave participants an
opportunity to listen to others' opinions and impressions while formulating
their own (Marshall & Rossman, 1999). Hearing a fellow focus group
participant's examples of teaching presence might trigger another
participant's memory of an experience with teaching presence, potentially
synergizing the focus group dynamics and resulting in multiple rich
descriptions of the construct. Since the individual students interviewed
during phase two were ideally drawn from the pool of focus group
participants in phase one, focus group participation also prepared the
students who continued in the study for their interview in phase two. This
additional benefit of the focus group derived from the subject's opportunity
for reflection on teaching presence prior to the in-depth individual interview.
The individual interviews were less likely to be impoverished by the subject's
lack of preparation to discuss the topic.
The case study approach, in addition to being a useful approach to
collecting in-depth data relevant to face-to-face and online teaching
presence (Krathwohl, 1998; Woods & Catanzaro, 1988; Yin, 1994), also

allowed for the systematic yet flexible selection of information-rich sources
of data an important consideration in my research. The two teacher
informants and the eight students, systematically selected and matched
based on their experience in the same course with each other in either of
the two learning environments, formed the two cases. The cases served
three purposes. These were to (a) provide a common context for a teacher
and four students to recall their mutual experience of teaching presence, (b)
elicit students' stories of encounters with a teacher that may represent that
teachers teaching presence in two different settings, namely face-to-face
and online learning environments, and (c) bring a multidimensional
perspective to the descriptions by including the teacher's perspective with
the students' perspective of the experience of teaching presence.
When using a multiple case design, the number of cases deemed
necessary is an important consideration. Because this was a descriptive
study, and not experimental, sampling logic and the usual criteria for
determining sample size were irrelevant (Yin, 1994). Instead, I considered
the number of case replications that were sufficient to determine that I was
not studying a unique case. Thus, similar results were predicted from the
two cases. Further, the two cases were based on literal replication logic, and
not theoretical replication logic, which produces contrasting results but for
predictable reasons (Yin, 1994). For all of these reasons, focus group and

case study approaches in the qualitative research genre are the methods
used in this study.
All subjects were associated with a school of nursing at a university in
the western United States. As student nurses or practicing nurses, many of
the potential subjects had learned about or experienced nursing presence,
allowing the assumption that this pool of subjects had a smaller conceptual
leap to make toward understanding the construct and describing their
experience with teaching presence than non-nurse subjects would have to
Data Analysis Strategies
In an effort to balance efficiency with design flexibility, my general
analysis strategy in the first phase of my study was situated at the midpoint
of the prefigured technical to emergent intuitive continuum of analysis
strategies defined by Crabtree and Miller, as adapted by Marshall and
Rossman (1999, p. 151). This midpoint represented a blend of a set of
preliminary codes that were revised as the analysis proceeded, with a
search for segments of text that generated and illustrated new categories of

meaning. This describes my general analysis strategy for the focus group
Both of the cases in phase two were comprised of one teacher and
four students, with two of the students focused on their online learning
experience and the other two students focused on their face-to-face learning
experience with the same teacher. Analysis of each revelatory case
consisted of a synthesis of the stories describing teaching presence told by
students. A descriptive summary analysis compared and contrasted the
cases to each other, and also compared and contrasted the face-to-face and
online examples with each other.
Over the last decade, digital educational technologies spawned
online learning environments arid immediately challenged our traditional
paradigm of teaching, learning and relating to each other. It was clear very
early in the evolution of online learning that teaching and learning were not
going to be business as usual. One of the changes was the perceived
attenuation or loss of the human connection between teachers and students.
Teachers fear objectifying students through technology and students fear
being reduced to objects.

Based on anecdotal evidence that some online teachers and students
successfully make human connections, I proposed study of a construct that I
termed teaching presence, an intersubjective experience during which a
teacher and a student willingly move together toward valued learning. Until
recently, the absence of a description of teaching presence was of little
concern or consequence. However, with the proliferation of educational
technologies many.teachers want to understand it so they can cultivate it in
online learning environments. The availability of online education to students
in rural and remote areas of our county may depend on convincing evidence
that teaching presence can be demonstrated in online learning
By illuminating and understanding teaching presence we can
recommend ways to cultivate it not only in face-to-face learning
environments, but learning environments in higher education in general and
online learning environments, in particular. It may not be necessary to
sacrifice our human relatedness for educational technology. In an effort to
prevent the loss of the human connection due to digital technologies in
distance education, it is imperative that we describe the circumstances of
those who successfully make a human connection in online learning
environments. A rich description of teaching presence can contribute to the

professional development of all teachers who believe in the importance of
caring role relationships and dialogue between teachers and students.
In Chapter Two, I review the literature that informed the preliminary
definition of teaching presence, the guiding conceptual framework and
interrelationships suggested by the framework, and point out gaps in the
literature. In Chapter Three, I describe the methods I used to conduct the
research. In this chapter, there is a detailed explanation of the procedures
used to analyze the data in each phase of the study. This prepares you for
the focus group and case study results presented in Chapter Four.
Chapter Five is a discussion of the results and conclusions. Rather
than the figurative final chapter on the topic, Chapter Five poses questions
that will open an ongoing conversation on the topic of teaching presence in
face-to-face and online learning environments.

The purpose of this chapter is to present the literature that grounded
my inquiry, with special attention to the literature that informed my
preliminary definition of teaching presence and the guiding conceptual
framework. I begin by reviewing the literature that contributed significantly to
my preliminary definition of teaching presence and follow that with a review
of literature that informed the guiding conceptual framework. These are the
literatures of teaching effectiveness and caring teacher-student role
relationships, and human communication.
Next, I explain the theory underpinning the conceptual framework.
Finally, in this chapter, I note gaps in the literature that may be addressed
through this inquiry. This literature, combined with the lack of literature
explaining our way of being there and knowing our students in face-to-face
learning environments and our need to understand teaching presence in
online learning environments, draws us toward inquiry that advances the
development of the construct of teaching presence.

Literature that Informed the Preliminary Definition
The term presence is familiar to many people who study
communication, philosophy, theology, and nursing. While the philosophy,
theology and nursing perspectives are important to my inquiry because of
their longer history and their close connection to the ontological nature of the
construct under study, all of these communities of discourse informed my
preliminary definition. Before beginning my review of the literature as
outlined above, I give attention to two distinctly different uses of the term
Mediated Communications and Ontological
Definitions of Presence
The terms being there and being with appear frequently in the
mediated communications literature, as well as in the philosophy, theology
and nursing literature. Furthermore, these terms have high public visibility
because of advertising blitzes encouraging us to experience being there.
Because this common vocabulary could be a source of confusion I will point
out the difference between the mediated communication and ontological
uses of the terms. Perhaps just as important as distinguishing differences, is
to remain open-minded to what each brings to a description of teaching

Over the last 50 years, mediated communication came into our
homes and captivated us. First, telephone communication became
commonplace, and later almost every home had a television and VCR. By
the year 2001, 66% of the United States population used a computer and
54% used the Internet (NTIA, 2002). These media, i.e. the telephone lines,
broadcast television signals, video cassette tapes, our computer modems
and other media, virtually connect two or more of us and mediate our
communication when we cannot be there, physically present with each
The increase in popularity and sophistication of digital technologies
over the last ten years heightened our interest in replicating or mimicking a
face-to-face experience. This fascination with personalizing technology and
curiosity about the human-technology interface led to an interest in making
people on the other side of the technology look and sound as real as
possible. Although the term presence is in the communication literature as
early as the 1950s, '60s, and 70s, (Horton & Wohl, 1956; Short, Williams, &
Christie, 1976; Wiener & Mehrabian, 1968) the technology community
quickly re-adopted it in a modified form in the 1990s. Presence, as defined
in the mediated communications literature, is an illusion that a mediated
experience is not mediated (Lombard & Ditton, 1997). The term describes a

sensory perception of existing in virtual reality, that is, existing in essence or
effect, though not in actual fact or form.
It is a daunting and formidable task to attempt a succinct description
of presence in the ontological sense and rather presumptuous to do so here,
given that philosophers and theologians have discussed this topic for
centuries never arriving at a clear definition. Given that caveat, I distilled
my own understanding of presence from the works of scholars of philosophy
and theology to provide clarity to this report of my work and arrived at the
following description. In the ontological sense, to be present is to be
vulnerable and open to influence, (Steere, 1967) and to encounter others
fully in a reciprocal dialogue (Buber, 1958/1970; Bohm, 1996) that
transcends time and place. In summary, users of technology mediated
communications or virtual environments apply the term as a perceptual
illusion, whereas philosophers, theologians and nurses apply presence as
an ontological concept. This study applies the term primarily, ontologically.
Presence in Mediated Communication
There are multiple variations on the term presence in virtual
environments and familiarizing ourselves with them is the first step toward
understanding where similarities might lie. There are at least six variations
on Lombard and Ditton's (1997) definition: presence as (a) social richness,

(b) transportation, (c) immersion, (d) realism, (e) social actor within medium,
and (f) medium as social actor. I will expand on the first four to emphasize
the differences between the nursing and mediated communications
communities of discourse. The last two variations refer to such things as an
actor with stage presence, a network news anchor and the television news
itself coming into your living room and will not be addressed.
Presence as social richness, commonly referred to as social
presence, has received the most attention. It appeared in the mediated
communication literature over three decades ago. Its definition is the extent
to which other beings (living or synthetic) also exist in the world and appear
to react to you (Heeter, 1992). It is the extent to which a medium is
perceived as sociable, warm, sensitive, personal or intimate when it is used
to interact with other people (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976). Social
presence is related to two important concepts from social psychology,
originally applied to nonmediated interpersonal communication: intimacy and
immediacy (Argyle & Dean, 1965). Social presence relies heavily on non-
verbal communication (Argyle & Dean, 1965; Short, Williams, & Christie,
1976) and in online education, non-verbal expressions may take the form of
emoticons (symbols such as ;) that represent a smiling face with a winking
eye, using combinations of characters on a keyboard), graphics and
animation, which are thought to enhance social presence. Biocca, Burgoon,

Harms and Stoner (2001) added an element of intentionality, or
psychological involvement of some intelligence (either human or artificial) to
the definition of social presence. Lights that come on via a motion detector
create social presence. An example of social presence in an online learning
environment is the online discourse between teachers and students and
among students on course assignments or group projects. Students report
that they do not feel alone in the online course, even though they may be
physically alone while sitting at home in front of their computer.
Presence as transportation is the degree to which media users are
transported into a distinct mediated environment. Our transport into a
distinct place can happen in three ways: we go there, it comes here, or we
are together. This type of presence occurs when we read a book or listen to
a storyteller and feel that we are there. It is the phenomenological sense of
being there using the mental models of mediated spaces that create the
illusion (Biocca, 1997; Biocca & Levy, 1995; Heeter, 1992). In mediated
environments, telepresence and virtual presence are common expressions
used when experiencing that one is actually there at the place generated
by the technology, for example, shopping in an online store.
The use of head-mounted displays and position trackers to place the
participant inside a virtual environment are methods of achieving the third
type of presence, that is, presence as perceptual and psychological

immersion (Biocca & Delaney, 1995; Biocca & Levy, 1995). Immersive
presence was popularized in video arcades in the late '80s and early '90s
and remains in use today to train pilots and astronauts. Presence as
immersion remains popular in the entertainment industry.
The degree to which a medium can produce seemingly accurate
representations of objects, events, and people representations that look,
sound, and/or feel like the real thing is presence as realism (Lombard &
Ditton, 1997). Telephone conversations, videoconferences, and
synchronous, computer-mediated messaging are examples of mediated
conversations that could pass as the real thing. An animated, three-
dimensional image of a molecule, an audio recording of a teacher's voice
welcoming students to an online course, and seats quaking in a theatre
while watching the movie "Earthquake" are other examples.
These four conceptualizations of presence are more aptly described
as sensory perceptions in virtual reality. They are a person's sense of being
with someone who is not physically there or being there in another place
or space in time, as if the perception of time and place approaches the
reality of place and time.

Presence in Other Virtual Environments
Three additional applications of presence require special attention to
add clarity to the variety of uses of the term presence before we move
forward. These are co-presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence
as used in virtual environments literature.
The term co-presence has its roots in both communication theory
(Goffman, 1961) and ontology (Buber, 1958/1970) and more recently, in the
virtual environments literature (Biocca, Burgoon, Harms & Stoner, 2001). In
its simplest form, co-presence is the mutual, sensory awareness of another
with each sensory channel a medium for experiencing social presence. It is
influenced by the environment in which the interaction takes place (Goffman,
1961). In the virtual reality literature, co-presence is closely related to social
presence. More important to this inquiry is the use of co-presence in the
ontological sense, that is, co-presence as an encounter, an event or
situation in which relation occurs (Buber, 1958/1970). The fundamental
means of such an encounter is dialogue.
The term cognitive presence grew out of the practices of computer
scientists, systems engineers, and social scientists and researchers of
media and networking design. While it is still early in its development as a
concept, it is surfacing occasionally in the literature. Computer scientists
believe "cognitive presence is the degree to which the virtual environment

dominates over the real environment as the basis for thought" (Nunez &
Blake, 2001). Perceptually, the person acts as though they exist in the
virtual environment. For example, if a missile in a video game flies toward
the player, cognitive presence holds that the player would duck to avoid
being hit by the missile. Nunez and Blakes (2001) definition of cognitive
presence implies that
a highly present user will be strongly focused on the
virtual environment, and thus applications which require
a lot of concentration on the task will be improved if
they are expressed in virtual environments which create
a high degree of cognitive presence, (p. 117)
Online learners who have a frustrating interface with their courseware
or computer hardware that requires great mental effort have reduced
cognitive resources available, thus reducing cognitive presence. This
conceptualization of cognitive presence seems closely aligned with
presence as transportation as set forth by Lombard & Ditton (1997) but is
labeled as a cognitive rather than a sensory perception.
Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2001) conceptualized cognitive
presence in a slightly different way within their model of a Community of
Inquiry, and applied it specifically to the practice of computer conferencing in
higher education. They defined cognitive presence as the extent to which
learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained
discourse in a critical community of inquiry, i.e. higher-order knowledge

acquisition and application associated with critical thinking. Cognitive
presence is one of three essential elements in their model of a Community
of inquiry, with social presence and teaching presence being the other two.
Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, and Archer (2001) described teaching
presence as a process, an art, and a profession, in the performance of
online teaching. Of note, they specify its occurrence in the performance of
online teaching, that is, the task management duties of online teachers.
They defined teaching presence as having three characteristics: design and
administration, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction. They viewed it as
an antidote to the lean medium of communication that asynchronous online
learning environments have to offer, and give online teachers as educational
moderators three major responsibilities: organizational, social, and
intellectual. The literature they reviewed resembles the teaching
effectiveness literature that arrives at a list of attributes of good teachers.
These are important characteristics and actions of online teachers but do
not approach the relational aspect of teaching presence as proposed in this
Literature from the mediated communications community of discourse
is important to the development of the construct of teaching presence, in
that we must eventually arrive at a point where students and teachers are
not only comfortable with the technology, but that it becomes transparent.

However, this literature is dismally lacking in research and even in narrative
essay describing the human relational aspects of computer-mediated
communications. Below, I outline how the fields of philosophy and theology,
and nursing apply the term presence. I believe these discourse communities
can make substantive contributions to the development of the construct of
teaching presence.
Presence in Philosophy and Theology
In philosophy, I turned to the writing of existentialists. Existentialism is
a philosophy of being, and existentialists speak to the anxieties produced by
the world and nagging fears of meaninglessness. In the late 19th century and
early 20th century when existentialist thinkers started gaining prominence,
their ideas and words gave hope and insight to commoners during a time
when the industrial revolution was taking hold and science and technology
were proliferating. Greene (1967) said,
It is not accidental that the tendency to react in the
existential mode became visible in many parts of
nineteenth-century Europe at the moment when middle-
class rule was consolidating itself, when industrial
routines' were beginning to dominate the lives of
ordinary men, and the cities began expanding as never
before. All this meant, for many people, lives lived in the
midst of unfamiliar crowds instead of in the face-to-face
communities of the past. It brought the experience of
anonymity and powerlessness. It inaugurated the
seductive manipulations of mass newspapers and
sentimental literature. It forced whole families to submit

to the impersonal regulations of factories and business
concerns, (p. 10)
There are significant differences in the philosophies of existentialists
such as Kierkegaard, Marcel, Heidegger, and later, Buber, and Sartre,
Merleau-Ponty. Some are rigorous phenomenologists, others are literary,
religious, and atheist or humanist existentialists (Greene, 1967), but
common among their writing was their concern about the harm done to our
sense of being by the industrial revolution. Some people believe computer
technologies of the 21st century are leading us toward lives lived in the midst
of unfamiliar crowds of electronic encounters and away from the face-to-face
communities to which we are accustomed, making it our destiny to live the
experience of anonymity and powerlessness in computer-mediated
communication. One can engage in an entire day of work without a single
face-to-face human encounter and an entire semester-long course without a
single face-to-face human encounter with another student or the teacher,
putting us in much the same position as ordinary men and women in the
industrial revolution of the 19th century.
Many existentialist thinkers such Buber, Marcel and Heidegger were
not only scholars and philosophers, but also teachers. Writing about
encounters with students, existentialists help us see students not as objects
or objects of study via their test scores or achievement on assignments, but

as individuals with whom we open a dialogue, thus "opening the way to
tensions and anxieties, the disquietude that is so essential to growth"
(Greene, 1967, p. 161). Teachers are the 'other' with respect to students
and we must work to know each other, "opening ourselves sufficiently to be
present there" (p. 161). Existentialist thinking about a teacher's influence on
students, their views of education and dialogue, and their reflections on the
relationships we have with ourselves and others existing in relation to
each other are threaded throughout this chapter. Interestingly, Greene
(1967), who commented on existentialism in education and Blackham
(1994), whose accounts of six existentialist thinkers was originally published
in 1952, both brought their accounts of existentialism into the American
mainstream about the same time that nursing started exploring its link to
existentialism (Smith, 2001).
We often think of presence in political terms such as the United
Nations' post-war presence in a nation, and infer that it means the UN is
there. We expect that this presence is felt and acknowledged in a less
tangible way, by hopefully making a favorable difference in the lives of those
whom it touches (Steere, 1967). This use of the term presence approaches
the concept of presence as found in many if not most religions of the world.
Some examples will shed light on how presence is actualized. Steere wrote
eloquently about his many personal experiences of presence and his

understanding of presence as a concept in the Quaker tradition. The
following two examples from his writing can help us understand presence as
described by theologians. About presence and friends, he wrote
In the writing of a letter, the epistle can be a kind of
hurried calendar of events with a formal solicitous
inquiry about your condition at its conclusion, and it will
be quite clear to the receiver that as it was being written
he [sic] was hardly present at all to the writer. Or the
letter can be written in such a way that the receiver
knows instinctively that he [sic] and his situation are
present to the writer throughout. I was touched in the
summer of 1965 to get a letter from Albert Schweitzer in
reply to one I had written him just after his 90th birthday.
In the course of telling me about his life in Lambarene,
he asked me if I did not miss giving my college lectures
now that I was retired. With the hundreds of things he
had to do, he had been concerned truly to enter into my
life and situation.
A real friend is present. He [sic] is there when
you need him. A real friend seems to know the word to
speak, or the question to ask, or the book to send in
order to help to restore for us the lost image of our life
task. He [sic] knows how to confirm in us the deepest
thing that is already there, "answering to that of God" in
his needy friend, (p. 16)
These examples are clues to the way that our presence, through
words, can influence another. Steere (1967) also wrote about presence
through prayer, saying
Presence may also come in an act of prayer. For in the
life of prayer we bring ourselves into an openness that
makes it possible for us to be freshly aware of God's
presence. It is not that he [sic] is not present at other
times but that by this voluntary act of ours, the act of
prayer, we are enabled to break with our outer

preoccupations and to become aware of the presence
and of what that presence does to search and to
transform and to renew us and to send us back into life
A speaker was once introduced by the perfect
chairman [sic] who said simply, "Mr. Weaver, we are
ready. Are you ready?" When I gather myself for prayer
it is almost as if God were so addressing me: "Douglas
Steere, I am ready. Are you ready?" (p. 17)
Steere seemed to be saying that there is a mutual willingness to move
forward together, as I'm suggesting that students and teachers move
willingly together toward educational goals and to explore new territories.
Episcopal Bishop Charles Brent (1949) acknowledged that presence
is difficult to define and provided largely illustrative accounts instead. He
attempted a definition, saying
Presence is the operative result of relationships of
whatever sort. It is juxtaposition and all that contact or
interpenetration involves. That which constitutes
presence is stated for me in the words of a modern
philosopher: 'A body is present wherever its (attractive)
influence is felt/ [Bergson, 1944, p.198] Such a
definition implies degrees of presence to an infinite
extent, varying from an indestructible union to an
attraction of such slender tenuity as to be only just more
than zero. (p. 99)
He described a volitional aspect of presence, saying that there are
varying degrees of presence and that a person is fully present to another
only to the extent that there is mutual and voluntary give and take. Also
important in Brent's writing about presence are his thoughts about how time

and space are not barriers to presence, using death of friends as an
example. He wrote that they are with him whether in the "uttermost parts of
the Earth or in Paradise, [they] are with me when 1 will them so to be, and up
to a certain point, in the degree I will them to be." (p. 102) The idea that two
people must be mutually willing to be present to each other, and that time
and space do not create barriers to presence are important to the
development of teaching presence in online learning environments.
Presence in Nursing
The view of presence in nursing brings an important perspective to
my study. A review of the 40-year history of inquiry into nursing presence
yields information about research approaches to and definitional aspects of
the concept (Frederiksson, 1999; Smith, 2001) that are useful to describing
teaching presence. It is also useful to know something about how nurses
themselves experience nursing presence, and thus an example is provided
later in this section.
Presence symbolizes the essence of nursing and the core of the
nurse-patient relationship (Gardner, 1991). It is not the physical proximity of
the nurse being in the same place, at the same time with the patient. It is the
intersubjective encounter between a nurse and a patient in which the nurse
encounters the patient as a unique human being in a unique situation and

chooses to spend herself on the patient's behalf (Doona, Haggerty & Chase,
1997). Theorists and practitioners both recognize that nursing presence is
beyond mechanistic: it is existential and essential. It is being available to
patients as opposed to being aloof or a mere spectator (Marsden, 1990). It
is giving the gift of oneself as a participant in a relationship and within that
relationship is a human relatedness, an interpersonal attachment to the
other, and a capacity to become emotionally, perceptually and cognitively
involved with the other person (Hagerty, Lynch-Sauer, Patusky, &
Bouwsema, 1993; Rouslin, 1973).
Nurses distinguish between being there and being with as
representing varying degrees or levels of intersubjectivity (Fredriksson,
1999). Being there is grounded in the attention of the nurse to answer some
need of patients regardless of whether they are physically present with each
other. The purpose is to achieve some goal, such as reassurance, comfort
or encouragement. Being with is also interpersonal and intersubjective, but
rather than a question-answer' pattern, there is a 'gift-invitation' pattern
(Pederson, 1993; Doona, Haggerty, and Chase, 1997). The nurse's gift of
self is an offer of availability to the patient and of necessity, an offer to be
wholeheartedly, emotionally available to the patient. By accepting the
nurse's gift, patients may invite the nurse to be by their side, to share in their
vulnerability and suffering. When the nurse accepts the invitation to be with

the patient, the nurse commits to remaining with the patient, enduring
his/her own feelings of discomfort and awkwardness (Pederson, 1993;
Pettigrew, 1990). Fredriksson (1999) makes this distinction between the two
levels of presence even clearer by saying,
The power of presence as being with lies in making
available a space where the patient can be in deep
contact with his/her suffering, share it with a caring
other, and find his/her own way forward........Being
there is a limited intersubjectivity grounded in the
attentive attitude of the nurse and in the fact that the
nurse and the patient are relying on roles Tm there as
a nurse or as a patient'. In being with, the
intersubjectivity is grounded in mutual receiving which
allows a higher degree of intersubjectivity than being
there. The nurse and the patient are not only present to
each other as roles, but in addition are present as whole
persons, (p. 1171)
Theorists Paterson and Zderad (1976/1988) were major early
contributors to the development of the concept of nursing presence and
emphasized the psychological aspects of nursing presence: dialogue,
empathy, and interactive transactions. They felt that the nurse used herself
as an intervention tool to create a favorable therapeutic psychological milieu
- or presence to meet the patient's needs for help, comfort, or support,
preceded by the nurse's ability to care, her self-awareness and commitment
to helping, her nursing knowledge and expertise, and skills of listening,
touching and other-awareness. It includes a display of empathy, trust,

genuineness, and an unconditional positive regard for the patient (Gardner,
"The presence of the nurse involves openness and availability to what
is and to what is not the patient's state of being, weighed against a standard
of what ought to be, with the intention of doing something about the
difference" (Gardner, 1991). Nursing presence is a privileged relationship,
entered into at the invitation of the patient. It is memorable and has an
enduring impact on both the patient and the nurse (Pettigrew, 1990) and
consequently, both the nurse and the patient are changed. The following
report of a nurses experience from Mohnkern's (1992) study of nursing
presence is helpful.
....[T]he most recent, dramatic one for me was being
called down to the ER to access someone's Med-port
and I'd worked with the patient off and on through all of
her admissions. When I got down there she was almost
unresponsive. Her blood pressure was well over
180/100 and her pulse was very low. They didn't think
she would even know me. I walked in the room and I
just acted like I knew she was awake. "Hi, C. its L. I'm
here to access your port." And she opened her eyes
and looked at me and held up her hand and I took her
hand and held her hand. I talked to her for quite a while,
got all my sterile field set up. Meanwhile the ED nurse is
coming in and out, coming in and out and I got ready to
access the port, I accessed the port (which is usually
traumatic for patients. It hurts a little but it bothers
them.) and with that the nurse looked up at the monitor
and said, "You really do relate well to her." Her blood
pressure had come down to normal range and her pulse
had come up to normal range in that time. Even now it

gives me goose bumps thinking about it. It was so
dramatic! (p. 202)
In addition to the dramatic physiological effects of this example,
nursing also recognizes that presence has moral effects. "When a caregiver
is called on to assist a patient or family member with an ethically complex
decision, real presence is fundamental in promoting the autonomy of the
individual. ... [A] second moral effect of real presence is that it can be an
antidote to the dehumanizing effects of technology." (Marsden, 1990, p.
541) Actions that may counter the dehumanizing effects of technology are of
great interest to my inquiry. An understanding of the antidotal effect of
presence on technology in nursing may help us see the potential antidotal
effect of teaching presence on educational technology. Teaching presence
may have an important and a moral impact on the education of students,
just as nursing presence has an important and a moral impact on the health
and well-being of patients.
The Guiding Conceptual Framework
The guiding conceptual framework of this inquiry suggests that
teaching presence arises out of effective, caring teacher-student
relationships. Systems theory an ecology of human development -
underpins the conceptual framework, based on my belief that teachers' and
students' epistemological and pedagogical values and beliefs form through

teacher-student role relationships that span many relationships and a long
period of time. Although I did not test or validate the conceptual framework,
it served as an important container for my ideas as the construct of teaching
presence developed and suggestions for modifying and refining the
framework are made at the conclusion of this inquiry. The literature reviewed
in this section shaped the examples of attitudes, actions and beliefs that
help to operationalize the preliminary definition of teaching presence and
predict the three outcomes.
Effective Teachers and
Caring Student-Teacher Role Relationships
Effective teaching received much research attention in the 1960s and
70s, that continues to the present time. This research of teaching
effectiveness and the caring teacher (professor)-student relationship often
centered on the intrinsic value of the relationship, how it made education
more enjoyable, how it affected student evaluations of professors, and how
it impacted student learning (Walsh & Maffei, 1994). Effective teaching
practices and the caring role relationship in higher education overlap
through classroom teaching practices such as enthusiastically providing
content expertise, arriving at class well prepared and organized, stimulating
intellectual interest, providing clarity in explanations, and intellectually
challenging students (Cruickshank, 1990; Fenwick, 1994; Hunt, Touzel and

Wiseman, 1999; Jarvela, 1995; Jenlink & Kinnucan-Welsch, 1999; Lasiter,
1996; Richetti and Sheerin, 1999).
Caring in education (Bevis & Watson, 1989; Jeweler, 1994; Thayer-
Bacon & Bacon, 1996; Timmerman, 1995) and the caring relationship in
higher education (Beilke & Yssel, 1998; Bulach, Brown, & Potter, 1996;
Burke & Nierenberg, 1998; Goldstein & Lake, 1999; Pianta, 1999; Teven &
McCroskey, 1996) have also been topics of much research. The caring role
relationship in higher education begins with the use of effective teaching
practices such as preparation and organization, but goes beyond these
important strategies toward aspects of caring relationships such as
trustworthiness and creating a safe learning environment.
There is another view of effective and caring teachers that arises
from the work of researchers and essayists such as Noddings (1981,1984),
Palmer (1987,1998), and van Manen (1991) that aligns more closely with
the caring teacher-student role relationship in my guiding conceptual
framework. They hold that good teaching cannot and should not be reduced
to techniques; that technique is what teachers use until the real teacher
shows up (Palmer, 1998). Good teaching comes from the identity and
integrity of the teachers (Palmer, 1998), who are truly present in the
classroom, deeply engaged with their students and their subject.

Modelings' (1984) works on caring in education and Bevis and
Watson's (1989) works on caring in nursing education are seminal. Their
works are consistent with each other, but using Noddings' words, in caring,
"one is present in her [sic] acts of caring. Even in physical absence, acts at a
distance bear the signs of presence: engrossment in the other, regard,
desire for the other's well-being" (p. 19). She wrote,
I do not need to establish a deep, lasting, time-
consuming personal relationship with every student.
What I must do is to be totally and nonselectively
present to the student to each student as he [sic]
addresses me. The time interval may be brief but the
encounter is total, (p. 180)
Citing the early German educator Johann Friedrich Herbart's
introduction of tact to educational discourse in 1802, van Manen (1991)
described the notion of tact as "a way of acting which is 'first of all
dependent on Gefuhl (feeling or sensitivity) and only more remotely on
convictions' derived from theory and beliefs; and sensitive to 'the
uniqueness of the situation'" (p. 128). Van Manen found it surprising that
the English-speaking world has no interest in the tact of teaching. He saw
the tact of teaching as a special interaction between people, a mindfulness
that allows us to act in a pedagogically thoughtful way with students. Sorrell
and Redmond (1997) took note of van Manen's tact of teaching and used it
along with his ideas about pedagogical thoughtfulness, as a framework for

their study of caring interactions in nursing education, finding three themes
related to caring experiences in nursing education: caring as offering, leaps
ahead caring and creating a caring place.
The literature describing effective and caring teacher-student role
relationships is linked to the human communication literature all of which
supported the conceptual framework for this study by the current debate
about the effect computer mediated communication has on the teacher-
student relationship. Those on one side of the debate hold that the
convenience, accessibility and opportunity for deeper reflection afforded by
online communication is a benefit to the teacher-student relationship. In this
camp are teachers and students who have great excitement for participating
in virtual learning environments, likely explained by the novelty of the World
Wide Web (WWW) and Internet and the improved accessibility to students in
remote geographic locations. These enthusiasts are eager to communicate
with learners whom they might otherwise never know. For this camp, using
emerging digital technologies holds great promise for broader access to
higher education for a new generation of learners.
The other side of the debate believes that the technical, mediated
aspects of online communication are a detriment to the teacher-student
relationship. In this other camp are skeptics, who participate reluctantly in
online learning environments that they deem physically and psychologically

distant, sterile and cold. One of their fears of getting involved with online
learning is the potential loss of their relationship with students, which they
describe as the heart of the educational process (Shneiderman, 1998). They
feel that online learning environments are suited only for technically oriented
course content that does not require a human connection (Hafner, 2002). To
their credit, both camps stand in favor of essentially the same things: to
maintain or improve the quality of the teacher-student role relationship, and
avoid trading the teacher-student relationship for accessibility to higher
An assumption underlying the debate is that mediated communication
interferes with the development of the teacher-student relationship. Some
teachers believe that the substance of non-verbal communication in face-to-
face classrooms, especially communication that contributes to the teacher-
student relationship, cannot be expressed adequately through computer-
mediated, text-based dialogue (Sanford, 2002). They attribute the inability to
form an interpersonal, human connection with online students to limitations
of a fixed trait of the medium rather than the absence of certain relationship-
building behaviors or communication techniques that one must consciously
and deliberately use within the medium. When faced with the limitations of
mediated forms of communication, many lose enthusiasm and revert to
applying traditional classroom practices to the new medium rather than seek

new solutions and new ways of knowing each other in new learning
Human Communication Theory
Among the tools at my disposal to help me be there and know my
patients and students are the process and substance of my interpersonal
communication. Theories of human communication and social interaction
hold that we are always engaged in socialization through contact with others
(Applbaum, Anatol, Hays, Jenson, Porter & Mandel, 1973; Chesebro &
McCroskey, 2002; Drew & Wootton, 1988; Goffman, 1961; 1967; Layder,
1981; Turner, 1988). By applying interpersonal communication theories such
as relational dialectics and the interactional view a systems theory, to the
communication techniques and behavioral patterns identified in the teaching
effectiveness and general human communication literature (Argyle & Dean,
1965; Berliner & Casanova, 1996; Rosenshine, 1970; Rosenshine & Furst,
1971; Short, Williams and Christie, 1976; Wiener & Mehrabian, 1968), we
can begin to understand how the communication between teachers and
students influences their role relationship (Griffin, 2003). The ideas of
existentialists such as Buber (1958/1970), and modem day philosophers
such as Bohm (1996) also contribute to our understanding. In the following
section, I give attention to three facets of interpersonal communication that

have particular importance for the development of teaching presence: verbal
and nonverbal communication, immediacy and dialogue. This is followed by
a table of the five themes and associated attitudes, actions and beliefs
derived from the literature reviewed, that help to operationalize my
preliminary definition of teaching presence.
Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
Verbal and nonverbal communication is crucial to developing a
caring, human connection with students. It is a transactional process "by
which students and teachers mutually and simultaneously influence each
other's reciprocal behaviors" (Chesebro & McCroskey, 2002, p. 52). Many if
not most teachers are adept verbal and nonverbal communicators in face-to-
face learning environments. However, our use of verbal and nonverbal
communication in online learning environments is in its infancy. Teachers
who are proficient verbal and nonverbal communicators in both face-to-face
and online learning environments are meeting a great challenge. They may
hold a clue to how teaching presence manifests in online learning
Verbal communication, whether spoken face-to-face or sent and
received through a text based, computer-mediated messaging system is one
way of conveying my availability to be there for students. Face-to-face

presence is tangible, meaning you can feel and see my presence using your
senses of touch and vision to verify my physical presence. I can also
physically be there either face-to-face or online through my verbal
communication. The written words, or computer- mediated communication in
online classrooms, are the evidence that I am there even if there is no
verification of my corporal existence via the sense of touch or sight. I have
been there. My actual, though mediated presence in the online course
occurred in a different place and time, that is, asynchronously.
Besides providing evidence that I am there, my verbal communication
also conveys professional knowledge and personal information that
contributes to my human relatedness and connections with students. In a
definitional sense, human relatedness is our interpersonal attachment to
others, and our capacity to emotionally, perceptually and cognitively become
involved with another person (Hagerty, Lynch-Sauer, Patusky, &
Bouwsema, 1993; Rouslin, 1973). Early in the use of computer-mediated
communication, many people believed that narrow or lean channels of
communication lacked the richness necessary to support interpersonal,
social communication. This supposed lack of computer-mediated
communication to convey non-verbal information was dubbed the "cues-
filtered-out" perspective (Culnan & Markus, 1987). However, verbal
strategies for countering the cues-filtered-out perspective have appeared,

such as following language norms, using narrative and interpersonal
discourse schemas to engage students, using intense and immediate
language, and using an intense vocabulary (Liu & Ginther, 2001). As we
learn more about how mediated communication occurs, we must keep in
mind that text-based communication is "not a poor substitute for physical
presence and speech, but another fundamental medium of expression with
its own properties and powers" (Feenberg, 1999, p. 345).
My nonverbal communication contributes to the relationships I form
with students, too. Nonverbal communication occurs quite spontaneously in
face-to-face encounters and is observable as facial expression, posture, and
gestures, i.e. primarily corporeal movements. Multiple or wide channels of
non-verbal communication available in face-to-face encounters are generally
thought to be rich and deep and convey up to 90% of the emotional meaning
in our messages (Mehrabian & Ferris, 1967).
Nonverbal communication also occurs during computer-mediated
communication. Fortunately, a new community of discourse appeared during
the late 1990s, addressing interpersonal and relational "impression
formation" through computer-mediated communications (Liu & Ginther,
2001) and specifically concerns itself with online, nonverbal communication.
This community of discourse is grounded in communication theory in
general (Griffin, 2003) and more recently, in social penetration, uncertainty

reduction and social information processing theories in particular (Tidwell &
Walther, 2002). It is observable in the paralinguistic cues (emoticons),
chronemics (message timing), message frequency, message length, timely
responsiveness, and message accuracy (Liu & Ginther, 2001). All of the
various forms of verbal and nonverbal communication help me become an
effective and caring teacher, and may have an effect on my ability to be
present with my students in face-to-face and online learning environments.
The explicit and implicit content of our verbal communication sends a
message in much the same way as our nonverbal communication does.
Referred to as immediacy, the implicit verbal content of our messages is the
basis for inferring different feelings or attitudes on the part of the speaker.
Immediacy is an analysis of communication that reveals information about
the degree of separation or non-identity or conversely, the close relationship
of a speaker or author with his addressee (Wiener & Mehrabian, 1968).
Knowing students in face-to-face and online learning environments then,
relies on both the implicit and explicit personal and professional information
we disclose about ourselves. Students are incumbent upon teachers'
abilities to express themselves in a way that accurately reflects their

presence, since it can not necessarily be deduced literally from their words
alone whether spoken or written.
Gorham (1988) surveyed college students using 34 immediacy
behaviors, using primarily low-inference survey items. Examples from her
immediacy behavior items are "Uses personal examples or talks about
experiences she/he has had outside of class," "Gets into discussions based
on something a student brings up even when this doesn't seem to be part of
his/her lecture plan," and "Uses humor in class." She found that the
interpersonal perceptions and communicative relationships, specifically
verbally and nonverbally immediate messages from teachers to students
had a positive impact on students' perception of their learning. Studies of the
impact of teacher immediacy behaviors on student recall of information
(Kelley & Gorham, 1988) and student motivation and learning (Christophel,
1990) yielded similar positive results. Closely related to immediacy is
solidarity or the reduction of the psychological distance between teachers
and students (Sallinen-Kuparinen, 1992).
In approximately 15 years of experience with online learning, a
common observation of teachers and students alike is how the online
communication medium lends itself to deeper reflection and opportunities for

rigorous dialogue. As a simple form of communication, dialogue is a means
of social interaction. When practiced as a way of learning and knowing
rather than a mechanical, turn-taking technique or a forced conversation
orchestrated by a facilitator, dialogue engages teachers and students in an
epistemological relationship (Freire, 1970/2000; Freire & Macedo, 1995). Its
purpose is to come in contact with ideas and to understand, to meet the
other and to care (Noddings, 1984). In an interview with Macedo, Freire
observed, "...dialogue is a way of knowing and should never be viewed as a
mere tactic to involve students in a particular task" (p. 379). In an in-depth
dialogue, when two people begin to speak to each other they become truly
present to each other and both are changed in the course of the dialogue
(Steere, 1967, p. 24). Teachers who engage students in true dialogue,
distinguished by genuine listening in a reciprocal process and in a non-
hierarchical structure among participants (Bohm, 1996) in the spirit of an
epistemological relationship (Freire & Macedo, 1995) in both face-to-face
and online learning environments may hold additional clues to teaching
Opening genuine dialogue can mean a weakening of professional
structures (Noddings, 1984), weakening the position of influence of teachers
and helping students build self-efficacy. In general, teachers and nurses
have a large body of subject matter knowledge and are entrusted through

that influential relationship with students and patients (Bennis, Schein,
Steele, & Berlew, 1968) to guide and direct students and patients toward
mutual goals. This balance of power is important because when an
authoritative structure exists, dialogue can be limited (Bohm, 1996).
Fortunately, in higher education there are times when a balance of power is
achieved because of the maturity and wealth of life experiences adult
students bring with them.
The review of this literature informed my preliminary definition of
teaching presence. Conveying my willingness to be there and know my
students through my communication and behavioral encounters with
students, specifically through immediate verbal and nonverbal
communication and dialogue within a caring teacher-student role
relationship is paramount to the development of teaching presence. For the
purpose of this inquiry, teaching presence is an intersubjective experience
during which a teacher and a student willingly move together toward valued
learning. By being there for the student, the teacher reduces the students
educational vulnerability and by knowing the student, feelings of
helplessness or abandonment are allayed. Both submit to the power of the
other to influence, penetrate and engage, and are equally willing to be
changed by the experience.

Examples of attitudes, actions and beliefs associated with the five
themes that may help operationalize the preliminary definition are in Table 1.
These examples are not proposed as required dimensions of teaching
presence. I expect that these themes and examples of associated attitudes,
actions and beliefs will undergo revision as the construct develops. Using a
science metaphor, these examples are the substrates within caring teacher-
student relationships that catalyze or propel effective teachers toward
teaching presence.

Table 1
Proposed Teaching Presence Themes with Associated Attitudes, Actions
and Beliefs
Themes Associated Attitudes, Actions and Beliefs
Mutual willingness to be available and by the side of the other Is available to students and focused on them, even when rushed Explains things at the student's level as many times as needed Intellectually honest and demanding Holds self and student accountable for moving toward valued learning Issues reassurances, such as Ill be right here when the underlying message is Someone focused solely on your [educational! welfare is present (Gardner, 1991).
Interpersonal, human relatedness Authentically relates and genuinely represents self to students Interactions are beyond the mechanical not rote Reveals self to the student (appropriate personal and professional self-disclosure) i.e. does not just put on another hat while teaching Joins with the student Communicates empathy for the educational vulnerability of students; listens without judging Respects the dignity of the student by using a high degree of immediacy* in verbal communication, i.e. students are not objectified
Communicates and dialogues effectively with students Communicates and demonstrates expertise in the subject matter Is personally committed to strengthening their own and students' knowledge bases Maintains professional (teacher) self-efficacy
Believes in the agency of the student, that is, sees students as the causal agent who largely self- determines their own learning Advances students' efforts to become an independent and intentional learner Engages students in active learning and riskful thinking Builds students' self-efficacy through participative/affirmative experiences
Trustworthily pursues the student's best interest Knows where to go and how to get there ["Monitors the patient [student] by simultaneously assessing, anticipating, prioritizing, and meeting their ever-changing needs." (Miller, Haber & Byrne, 1992)] Enthusiastically leads students toward worthwhile learning goals with competence/confidence ["They make you do the things that will help you get better even when you don't want to; like drinking a lot of water, getting out of bed and walking around or taking a medication in the middle of the night." (Miller, Haber & Byrne, 1992)]
* Immediacy as a psycholinguists channel in verbal communication is the positive
orientation of the speaker toward the referent (Wiener & Mehrabian, 1968).

Ecology of Human Development
Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecology of human development is a systems
theory with its origins in children development. The child is at the center of
an ecological environment conceptualized as a set of nested structures. The
theory looks not only at each layer in the set of nested structures, but at the
interactions and relationships between them.
Applying this theory to the current study, student and teachers are
both at the center of the nested structures, with previous learning
experiences forming a layer. Past personal and professional relationships
both inside and outside of formal education settings would constitute
another layer, representing the pedagogical and epistemological beliefs and
practices that teachers accrue over time and bring with them to their
teaching and learning.
Gaps in the Literature
There is recent literature on the topic of presence in classrooms
(McCrary, 2000; Rodgers, 2002; Tremmel, 1993) imbedded in the literature
of the reflective practice of teachers. However, this literature does not
approach teaching presence as an ontological construct as suggested in my
research, but as an attentiveness to the student's learning needs. Rodgers

drew from Dewey (1933), saying that to be present, teachers must be
masters of the subject matter, to make themselves fully attentive to
observation and interpretation of the student's intellectual reactions. While
this is consistent with the communication and behavioral encounters that
operationalize my preliminary definition of teaching presence, it is not
included at this point in my study.
Very little of the literature cited in this chapter reports empirical data
from experimentally designed studies on topics related to presence. This is
not surprising, given the nature of the phenomena under study. The few
studies that have been done have not been repeated during the era of
online education bringing little or no generalizability of earlier findings to the
relatively new online learning environment.
This chapter reviewed literature that informed my preliminary
definition of teaching presence and my guiding conceptual framework for the
study, and pointed out the ways teaching presence appears to stand apart
from other actions of effective and caring teachers. The mediated
communications literature uses the terms presence, being there, and being
with very differently than the philosophy, theology and nursing literature,
which uses the same terms in an ontological sense. A clear understanding

of the use of these terms in this study is important since this study
investigates teaching presence in a mediated communications learning
environment. In this chapter, I also reviewed literature on effective and
caring teachers in an effort to differentiate between those characteristics of
teachers and the construct described in this study. In Chapter Three, I
explain the methods used to answer the research questions and the data
collection and analysis procedures.

In Chapter Two, I reviewed the literature that informed my preliminary
definition of teaching presence and the guiding conceptual framework. In
this chapter, I explain the methods used to investigate teaching presence.
Following an overview of the two phases of my inquiry, I describe the
subjects in my study; the procedures used to recruit and select them; the
characteristics of the subjects themselves; the data collection procedures;
and the data analysis procedures. I conclude this chapter with an
assessment of the strengths and limitations or threats to the integrity of the
Phases of the Inquiry
The two research questions that guided the study are, (1) What are
the patterns of communication and behavioral encounters between teachers
and students that describe teaching presence? and (2) To what extent does
teaching presence manifest similarly or differently in face-to-face and online
learning environments?

I sought answers to the two research questions through in-depth
interviewing of students who had a high likelihood of experience with both
nursing presence and teaching presence. However, finding patterns of
encounters between teachers and students that refine the preliminary
definition of the construct and describing its manifestation in different
settings required two different methodologies. Therefore, I designed a two-
phase approach to my inquiry. The two-phase approach not only matched
appropriate methods with each of the research questions, but also provided
time to reflect on the developing construct as it unfolded during the inquiry.
The first phase pertains to the first research question regarding the
description of teaching presence. In this phase I used a focus group
approach, which allowed flexibility to explore unanticipated aspects of the
construct before investigating its manifestation in two different learning
environments. It also provided an opportunity to identify and address issues
affecting the conduct of individual interviews later in the study (Marshall &
Rossman, 1999; Yin, 1994). The focus group discussions served two
purposes. These were (a) to estimate content validity and further develop
the preliminary definition of teaching presence, and (b) to develop an
interview guide for use in the second phase of the study. Another reason for
focus groups in general, was for "ideas to emerge from the group. A group
possesses the capacity to become more than the sum of its parts, to exhibit

a synergy that individuals alone don't possess" (Krueger & Casey, 2000, p.
The second phase addressed the second research question and
sought students' rich descriptions of teaching presence in face-to-face and
online learning environments. I studied two cases, each comprised of one
teacher and four students. In each case, two students completed a face-to-
face course and the other two students completed an online course with the
same teacher. Following replication logic (Yin, 1994) I expected that
teaching presence experiences described by the students in each case
would yield similar results in key respects. Likewise, I expected the face-to-
face experiences to be similar to each other, as well as the online
experiences described by the students. Multiple cases offer more compelling
evidence of the construct under study.
The case studies served three purposes. These were (a) to provide a
common context for a teacher and four students to recall their mutual
experience of teaching presence with each other, (b) to elicit students'
stories of encounters with teachers that may represent teaching presence in
two different settings, namely face-to-face and online learning environments,
and (c) to bring a multidimensional perspective to the descriptions by
bringing the teacher's perspective together with the students' perspective of
the experience of teaching presence. Students' stories of experiences of

teaching presence, combined with affirmations of the experiences by
teachers painted a rich picture of teaching presence in face-to-face and
online learning environments at the end of the second phase. I modified the
guiding conceptual framework at the end of the study based on insights I
gained from these stories. Figure 2 illustrates the two-phase approach to my
study and the methods used in each phase.

Phase One Phase Two
Focus Group Multiple Cases
itimate content validity of the Collect, compare and contrast descriptions of teaching presence
preliminary description of in face-to-face and online learning environments
teaching presence
Case Study One
Case Study Two
lit 10 Focus
) members
1 r
ct Group 10 >ants Collect data from other sources: Course documents Teacher-student interactions

1 r
e Focus Group data
Focus Group Report
1. Refine
2. Comp;
and Con
Online ai
Final Rep
\ure 2. Methods.

Site and Subjects
The site of this study was a school of nursing at a western university
in the United States. Sixteen students and two teachers participated in the
study. The following two sections describe the study site and subjects,
including subject recruitment, selection and their general characteristics.
The site has over 640 full-time and part-time nursing students in four
degree-granting programs. Nursing faculty struggle to bring ethnic and
gender diversity into the profession, and lack of ethnic and gender diversity
is reflected in the enrollment statistics of this school. Fifteen to eighteen per
cent of the enrolled students are from underrepresented (ethnic minority
and male) groups. The average student age in the Bachelor of Science
(BS) program is 28 years, age 30 years in the Nursing Doctorate (ND)
program, and age 34 years in the Master of Science (MS) program. There
is strong use of technology and distance education in the MS program, with
over 75% of the courses available online. The first online course in the
school was delivered in 1991, largely through email messaging and
conferencing. The school was recommended for accreditation for an eight-
year period by its accrediting body in February 2003.

I submitted two applications for approval to conduct research on
human subjects. One application was to the campus sponsoring my
research and the other application was to the campus where the study
subjects taught or attended class. Both applications received approval
before I initiated data collection. Each study subject gave informed consent
before participating in either the focus group discussion or an individual
interview. The consent form is in Appendix A.
All subjects were associated with a graduate degree program at the
school, either as a student or a professor of nursing. Currently matriculated
graduate students in the UCHSC School of Nursing who were likely to
have experienced or learned about the concept of nursing presence were
the student subject pool. Although I knew none of the student informants
before they volunteered to participate in the study, both teacher informants
were colleagues and well known to me because of my previous
employment at the school.
Recruitment and Selection
I gained entry to the site by meeting with the Associate Dean for
Academic Affairs of the school and explaining the study to her. Through
her institutional authority she granted permission to recruit students and

teachers (professors) from the school. I contacted professors in two
courses that enroll a large pool of graduate nursing students and both gave
me permission to make an announcement about my study to the students
in their classes. I distributed a Study Information Sheet and an Expression
of Interest to Participate sheet that included student contact information.
(Appendix B) The two recruitment efforts yielded 28 student volunteers. All
volunteers were contacted via email or phone and invited to attend a focus
The first of the two recruitment efforts occurred at the end of the fall
semester, immediately before major holidays. Eighteen of the 28 total
volunteers who expressed interest in participating in the study were from
this first recruitment. Two student volunteers attended the first focus group.
Another focus group meeting date was scheduled two weeks later and two
additional volunteers attended. Appreciating the efforts of the students in
both cases, I held a small group discussion rather than a focus group
discussion. Data collected from these two small group discussions are
included with the focus group data.
The second recruitment effort occurred at the beginning of the
following semester. Ten students volunteered to participate. By combining
remaining volunteers from the fall recruitment with volunteers from the
spring recruitment, seven students were able to attend the focus group.

Two professional journal articles and a web link to an online article about
nursing presence were distributed in preparation for the focus group
discussion and are in Appendix C.
The names of professors with online and face-to-face teaching
experience at the graduate degree level and who were regarded by their
colleagues as good teachers and receptive to educational research were
suggested by the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. This solicitation
yielded the names of six professors. From these six, I invited two
professors to participate and both agreed. Both professors expressed
enthusiasm for learning more about the construct of teaching presence
through their involvement in the study.
To identify and select eight student informants for the case study
phase of the inquiry, I first recruited from among the focus group
participants who reported taking a course from one of the two teacher
subjects, either face-to-face or online. The purpose of selecting from
among the focus group participants was to reduce the risk of impoverished
interviews with subjects who knew little about either nursing or teaching
presence. This selection yielded four students, all of who had face-to-face
classroom experience with one or the other or both of the teacher subjects.
Next, I recruited from among the remaining students from both groups of
volunteers who could not attend the focus group discussion. This yielded

three students, all of whom had online experience with one of the teacher
subjects. I misunderstood one of the three students, believing she had
taken an online course from the second teacher subject. Because it was
not clear from which teacher subject she took an online course until after
the interview started, I inadvertently obtained individual interview data from
one additional student informant. I included the data from the fifth online
student in Case Study One.
Since none of the student volunteers from either recruitment effort
had taken an online course from the second teacher subject, an
intermediary at the school identified and contacted two students with online
course experience with the second teacher subject. Both students were
interested in participating and were included in Case Study Two.
Characteristics of the Subjects
Because the data collected from the subjects are later analyzed and
reported in three different units of analysis, their collective and unit of
analysis characteristics are presented here in the same way. First, I
describe the student subjects as participants in the focus group. Then I
describe them as members of two case studies and then as members of
either an online or face-to-face units of analysis. The students in the case
study and online/face-to-face units of analysis are the same subset of the

pool of 28 student volunteers, configured into the two different units of
analysis. Later in this section, I describe the two faculty subjects.
Sample of Student Study Subjects
All of the student subjects lived in the metropolitan area surrounding
the university where the courses originated. All 16 were students
matriculated into the MS or ND programs in the school of nursing. Seven
subjects were in the ND program. As ND students, they have a special set
of characteristics, namely that they have completed non-nursing
undergraduate degrees in a wide variety of subjects, not necessarily
science focused. As a group they hold high expectations for themselves
and for others they work with, including the professors who teach them.
The remaining nine subjects were in 1 of 12 MS advanced nursing practice
options offered at the school.
Inexperience or unawareness of the concept of nursing presence
did not disqualify volunteers. Three of the students were not
knowledgeable of nursing presence. Seven of the 16 had teaching
experience. Age of the subjects ranged from 21 to 50 years with a mode of
26-30 years of age. There were 15 female and one male student subjects.
The Participant Information sheet used to collect demographic information
comprises Appendix D.

Participants in the focus group. Students who had either online or
face-to-face course experience in higher education were eligible to
participate in the focus group. Inexperience with online learning did not
disqualify potential subjects from focus group participation. Five of the
eleven participants in the focus group did not have online learning
experience. The first focus group (small group discussion) was comprised
of two female students in the MS program who were full-time students in
the armed services at a nearby military base. One male MS student with
teaching experience and one female ND student comprised the second
focus group (small group discussion). There were seven participants in the
third focus group of whom four were ND students and three were MS
Students in each case study. All of the students in the case study
unit of analysis were female; six were ND students and three were MS
students. Of these nine, only four participated in the focus group. In Case
Study One, the two face-to-face informants were ND students in the first
year of their program, one of whom had elementary classroom teaching
experience. The online informants were two third year ND students and
one MS student, all of whom completed at least three online courses prior
to being interviewed for this study. During the individual interview, all five

subjects referenced courses completed less than three months prior to the
Case Study Two included two third year ND students who focused
on face-to-face teaching presence and two MS students who focused on
the online teaching presence experience. The two students focused on
online teaching presence completed the online course more than one year
prior to the interview. The two students focused on their face-to-face
experience, completed the face-to-face course more than one year prior to
the interview. All four students referenced a community health course and
three of the four students had difficulty recalling detailed information.
Clearly, an important difference in subject composition between the two
cases is the recency of their experience with the teacher in the case study.
Face-to-face and online groups, within the case studies. The
subjects in the face-to-face/online unit of analysis are the same nine
students as in the case study unit of analysis. All four informants of the
face-to-face experience of teaching presence were ND students and had
more than 6 years of college education. The informants of the online
experience of teaching presence were three MS students and two ND
students. Two of the students had five to six years and the other three
reported more than six years of college education. All of the students

interviewed for their online experience of teaching presence had more than
five years of experience using a computer, reported minimal or no technical
problems taking their online courses, and had completed from three to six
online courses. Two of the four online informants met the teacher face-to-
face at an organizational class meeting at the beginning of the course. The
remaining three did not meet the professor before, during or after the
online course.
Teacher subjects. The teacher subjects in both cases were PhD
prepared faculty at the school of nursing. The professor in Case Study One
is an experienced psychiatric nurse and the professor in Case Study Two
practices minority women's health care nursing. The amount of online and
face-to-face teaching experience of the two professors differed quite
significantly. In Case Study One, the professor had over 24 years of
teaching experience in higher education, but only three years of experience
teaching online in seven online teaching experiences. The professor in
Case Study Two had only eight years of teaching experience in higher
education, yet had been teaching online for six years in more than ten
online teaching experiences.
In summary, there was a high degree of homogeneity within the
study sample of 16 students when described by their nursing profession,

gender, length of experience as a student and experience with technology.
However, they were less homogenous when described by the type of
nursing program they were enrolled in, their ages and thus perhaps their
life experience with presence. The teacher subjects had wide variation in
the amount and type of teaching experience. Both showed great
willingness to be included in this descriptive study of teaching presence.
Researcher Role
As a former member of the faculty at the school where the study
occurred, I had a collegial relationship with administrators and faculty. My
past role in the school was faculty development in the use of technology to
teach and thus this research generated interest among my colleagues and
former co-workers. My employment at the time of the study was affiliated
with the school of nursing and my office was in the same building with the
two teacher subjects. I used formal channels of communication to contact
the Office of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and received all
approvals to proceed through that office.
The two small group discussions and the focus group discussion
occurred in a conference room in the school. The location of my office in
the school of nursing made it an undesirable location for student
interviews. I offered to meet in a location of the student's choice. Two

students selected a nearby coffee house, one student asked me to come to
her office, five students selected study rooms in the academic library on-
campus. However, one student chose to come to my office.
All students read and signed the consent form that I explained to
them. A copy of the signed consent form was returned to them, with
contact information if any problems arose due to participation in this study.
Students and teachers in each case, knew that the other was participating
in the study, and students were aware that a synopsis of their interview
would be provided to the teacher following the student's approval.
Data Collection Procedures
In this section, I describe the sources of data, instruments, and
procedures used for data collection.
Data Sources
The primary source of data was the transcripts of the audio-
recorded focus group discussion and the individual interviews. I queried all
student subjects either following the focus group discussion or following the
individual interview for artifacts that might represent evidence of teaching
presence. Examples of such artifacts are course assignments with written
comments exchanged between the teacher and student or email

communication between the teacher and student, and transcripts from
teacher-student interactions in online courses. This yielded a few
handwritten notations on assignments, and one student's journal. However,
email messages were deleted and students and teachers alike could not
recall online discussion forum encounters with enough specificity to allow
me to retrieve them. Other sources of data were my field notes and
observations from the focus group and individual interviews and those of
an assistant, and the open ended comments made by students on previous
course evaluations of one of the two teacher participants.
I constructed three original instruments to focus my interview
questions and as a means of encouraging future replication of this study:
the Focus Group Questioning Route, the Student Focused Interview Guide,
and the Teacher Focused Interview Guide. They are in Appendix E.
While preparing to initiate data collection, I conducted a pilot of the
focus group questioning route. The purpose of the pilot was to determine if
the amount of structure in the proposed focus group questioning route was
adequate and yet not too directive, and to gain personal experience
leading a focus group. A nursing colleague who recruited volunteers to
participate in the pilot introduced me to eight nursing students in an

associate degree program of nursing at a nearby community college where
she teaches. My overview of the study at the beginning of the focus group
session promptly elicited a barrage of discussion about the impossibility of
presence in online learning environments, although none of the students
had ever taken an online course. The questioning route was too long for
the length of time students were able to attend to the discussion. Both the
questioning route used in the pilot and the subsequently revised
questioning route that I used in the study are Appendix E.
Data Collection Procedures
For both the focus group and the individual student interviews, I
contacted students by email or phone according to their specified
preference on the Expression of Interest to Participate form. The combined
responses of the students established a mutually agreeable time and date
for the focus group discussion. I conducted the focus group discussion
following the guidelines set forth by Krueger and Casey (2000) with
assistance from a colleague who monitored the recording devices,
welcomed late arrivers, tended to the refreshments, and witnessed
signatures and collected consent forms. This allowed me to focus my
attention on the task of moderating the focus group and staying mentally
alert and free from distractions. Each of the three group discussions that

comprise the focus group data was one hour in length. These three groups
combined include discussion contributions from eleven participants; two
students from each of the two small group discussions and seven from the
final focus group recruitment.
Following the focus group discussion and in the same fashion, I
contacted students and scheduled a mutually agreeable time, date and
meeting location with each student that met the criteria for the case study
phase, that is, completion of a face-to-face or online course with one of the
teacher subjects and ideally, participation in the focus group discussion.
Because this inquiry is a descriptive study of teaching presence, the
in-depth interviewing method of data collection and analysis l used does
not follow the more common phenomenological approach to in-depth
Phenomenological interviewing is a specific
type of in-depth interviewing grounded in the
tradition of phenomenology. It is the study of
lived experiences and the ways we understand
those experiences to develop a worldview. It
rests on an assumption that there is a structure
and essence to shared experiences that can be
narrated. The purpose of this type of
interviewing is to describe the meaning of a
concept or phenomenon that several
individuals share. (Marshall & Rossman, 1999,
pp. 112-113)

In the phenomenological tradition, subjects are repeatedly
interviewed or multiple subjects are interviewed until the data can be
reduced to a common theme or set of themes, or until new themes stop
emerging. Instead, I used a focused interview approach (Merton, Fisk, &
Kendall, 1990). This type of interview is frequently used in case study
research when one wants simply to corroborate facts that they believe
have already been established (Yin, 1994). The interviewer uses a set of
questions, yet remains conversational and keeps the questions open-
Each individual student interview was 30-45 minutes in length.
When individual students could not recall an experience of teaching
presence with the teacher subject in their case, they were encouraged to
describe instances of teaching presence with other teachers, preferably in
the face-to-face or online learning environment that matched them to the
teacher subject. At the end of the focus group discussion and the individual
student interviews, students received either a $5 gift certificate to the
campus bookstore, a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop, or a mousepad
with the university campus logo as a token of appreciation for participating.
Each teacher interview was approximately one hour in length using
the focused interview approach. The primary purpose of the faculty

interviews was to corroborate the student descriptions of teaching
presence and elicit their ideas about how teacher presence manifests.
Data Analysis Procedures
My general analysis strategy for data from the focus group
discussions and the individual interview transcripts is situated at the
midpoint of the prefigured technical to emergent intuitive continuum of
analysis strategies defined by Crabtree and Miller, as adapted by Marshall
and Rossman (1999, p. 151). This midpoint represents a blend of a set of
preliminary codes that undergo revision as the analysis proceeds, with a
search for segments of text that generate and illustrate new categories of
meaning. The set of preliminary codes in this study are the five themes
listed in Table 1. These five themes were revised.
A key component of the data analysis is Table 1. This table lists the
five themes and associated attitudes, actions and beliefs that I believe
operationalize the preliminary definition of teaching presence. It was not
the purpose of this descriptive research to develop and test an instrument
to develop and test an instrument to measure teaching presence. However,
Green and Lewis (1986) provide guidance for constructing valid measures
of concepts that I applied to refining the themes in this construct as they
evolved over the course of this study. Green and Lewis suggested that

there are five stages of establishing the content validity of an instrument.
The five stages are literature review, personal reflection, identification of
components of the concept, identification of items, and empirical analysis
of the items. This study stopped short of identifying test items and
empirically analyzing items in the table.
The analysis of data collected from the focus group confirms,
rejects, modifies, and/or adds to the definition of teaching presence. All
focus group discussions were combined into one transcript. Passages
containing students descriptions of teaching presence during the
discussion were identified and assigned one of the five codes. The code
assignment was guided by the attitudes, actions and beliefs associated
with each theme. Frequency of each theme was computed and reported in
tabular form.
Analysis of the individual informants interview transcripts proceeded
in much the same way. I began by identifying the passages describing
teaching presence, then coded the passage with one of the five themes
defining teaching presence, but this time using the revised attitudes,
actions and beliefs associated with each theme.
Nvivo is the qualitative research software program I used to manage
and analyze the data. Only the data organization and management
features of the software, such as selecting, saving and filing passages of

the transcripts into themes were used. The more sophisticated features of
the software, such as linking documents and creating maps of the data
were not used. However, NVivo software includes a useful utility that
facilitates coding of new categories of meaning as they occur during the
coding process, which I used to code emerging themes.
As new themes appeared to emerge, they too were coded using
NVivo. Three examples of themes that appeared to be emerging were
sustained memory of the experience, models self after teacher, and length
of time with teacher. No more than two passages were coded for any of
these themes, and often both passages were from the same subject. All of
these emerging themes were discarded.
An embedded case design characterized the two case studies.
Embedded case designs occur when "within a single case, attention also is
given to a subunit or subunits" (Yin, 1994, p. 41). The three units of
analysis embedded within each of the two cases were the (a) individual
informant's stories (eight students and two teachers), (b) two learning
environments (face-to-face and online), and (c) two 1-teacher/4-students
cases. The data were organized and reported using these units of analysis.
A cross-case analysis was planned for the learning environments and the
teacher cases.

Each student shared an experience of teaching presence that was
subsequently summarized. The summary of each individual teaching
presence experience and the entire transcript of the interview with each
student, were coded using the five themes. The coded summary of the
teaching presence experience and selected passages from the student's
transcript were then reviewed by the student for accuracy.
The online and face-to-face patterns of communication and behavior
were not coded separately, but were distinguished from each other by the
student's assignment to either the teacher's face-to-face or online course.
The face-to-face and online examples were then compared and contrasted
with each other.
Analysis of each case consisted of a synthesis of the stories
describing teaching presence told by students including a report of the
themes identified. A descriptive summary analysis of the case study phase
compared and contrasted the cases to each other.
Strengths and Potential Threats
to the Integrity of the Study
Two questions about the validity of this research that must be
answered are (a) Am I actually measuring what I think I am measuring?
and (b) To what extent are my results applicable across groups?
(LeCompte & Goetz, 1982) Potential threats to the internal validity of the

study include my subjective experience with the topic, including my
experience as a nurse, a nurse educator and as an online instructor.
However, one of the strengths of this research is the internal validity
represented by data collected from subjects who had first hand experience
with the construct studied. Their narratives of experiences of teaching
presence have strong validity. The genuine stories told by the students and
teachers belong to them.
Two questions about the reliability of this research that must be
answered are (a) Would an independent researcher discover the same
phenomena? and (b) Would other researchers, given a set of previously
generated themes, match them with data in the same way as I did?
(LeCompte & Goetz, 1982)
The original instruments developed for this study, are provided for
use by future researchers. This would aid an independent researcher in
their effort to replicate this study.
Interrater reliability for coding passages by theme was estimated
with a nurse educator colleague. This measure of reliability deals with error
arising from the fallibility of human observation and documentation due to
differences in human perception and coding (Green & Lewis, 1986;
LeCompte & Goetz, 1982). Ten of 43 passages selected from student
interview transcripts and the five themes and associated attitudes, actions

and beliefs from Table 1 were provided to the nurse educator with an oral
description of what each theme represented, in general. An interrater
agreement rate of 80% was estimated. The interrater reliability that was
estimated did not however, measure my accuracy in searching and finding
passages representing the five themes. It established only that for selected
passages, my coding matched the coding of another nurse educator for
80% of the passages.
The potential for failure of new themes to emerge during the focus
group discussion was of concern because of the relatively short (one hour)
length of the discussions. This concern threatens the validity of the
students' accounts of teaching presence because they may have omitted
important aspects of the construct, simply by forgetting to bring them into
the discussion or not feeling comfortable with the focus group dynamics.
As a means of addressing this threat to validity, following an introduction to
the substance of teaching presence and again at the end of each group
discussion I asked participants to consider if anything was missing from the
preliminary definition. At the conclusion of each group discussion, I invited
them to contact me if any other characteristics of teaching presence
occurred to them after further reflection on the construct.
I believe these potential threats, while not disabling to the study, do
give reason to be cautious in making strong claims about any final

development of the construct of teaching presence. I intend to open a
conversation on the topic following completion of this study.
In this chapter I presented the methods I used to investigate two
research questions. I described the subjects in my study, the procedures I
used to recruit and select them, and described my data collection and
analysis procedures. I concluded this chapter with an assessment of the
strengths and limitations of the study. In Chapter Four, I will present my

In this chapter, I present the results of my study as they pertain to
the two research questions. The two research questions that guided the
study were (1) What are the patterns of communication and behavioral
encounters between teachers and students that describe teaching
presence? and (2) To what extent does teaching presence manifest
similarly or differently in face-to-face and online learning environments?
First, I present the focus group results, followed by the results of the two
case studies. The results of the case studies are presented by the three
units of analysis and include reports of experiences of teaching presence
(a) by students and teachers individually, (b) by learning environment, and
(c) by case study, based on two professors. Then I compare the two cases
with each other.
Focus Group Results
The focus group phase of the study had two purposes. One purpose
was to estimate the validity of the preliminary definition of teaching
presence derived from the literature through students' focused discussion

After a brief review of nursing presence and a broad, open
discussion of teaching presence as planned in the Focus Group
Questioning Route, I provided the following preliminary definition of
teaching presence to participants in the focus group:
Teaching presence is an intersubjective experience
during which a teacher and a student willingly move
together toward valued learning. By being there with
the student, the teacher reduces the students
educational vulnerability and by knowing the student,
feelings of helplessness or abandonment are allayed.
Both submit to the power of the other to influence,
penetrate and engage, and are equally willing to be
changed by the experience.
The general reactions of the participants after reading the
preliminary definition were affirming, with statements varying from "the two
teachers I was thinking about in preparation for the focus group today had
all of these points" to "the 'knowing' part is incredibly important" to "these
are all important aspects of being a teacher." Presenting the preliminary
definition and the five themes with associated attitudes, actions and beliefs
narrowed the focus of the discussion to more specific student experiences
of and reflections on teaching presence. Discussion became more diffuse
again toward the end of the one-hour session, as students were asked to
consider what should be added to or taken out of the definition and other
open-ended questions.

Students were eager to talk about the caring role relationships
between teachers and students, and were quick to share their thoughts
and opinions about online learning environments during the focus group
discussion. Some students were neutral or slightly positive about online
learning, and two of the nine students in the case study phase were
enthusiastic about online learning. However, in general, the students in the
study viewed online learning as less optimal than face-to-face. The
combination of purposive and convenience sampling helps explain this
characteristic of the group. The purposive aspect of the sample yielded
subjects who were likely to have background knowledge and experience
with the concept of nursing presence. The convenience aspect of the
sample yielded volunteers who may have viewed the focus group as a
forum for speaking out about their displeasure with online learning or to
expound upon their beliefs about good and bad teaching. This was
apparent in all group discussions and more so in the first of the two small
discussion groups.
I made repeated efforts to keep the discussions focused on the
preliminary definition of the construct of teaching presence, rather than
speculate on its manifestation or impossibility for its manifestation in
online learning environments, particularly speculation by participants who
had never taken an online course. The Focus Group Questioning Route

was useful in my efforts to re-focus their attention. Reports of online
experiences of teaching presence in,the focus group were not squelched,
but the discussion was redirected whenever possible to a full consideration
of teaching presence in different environments.
Results Related to the Preliminary Definition
The combined transcripts of the two small group discussions and
one focus group were reviewed together. The communication and
behavioral encounters representing teaching presence offered by students
were identified and coded using the five themes in Table 1, and then
analyzed for frequency of occurrence.
Descriptions of interpersonal human relatedness recurred most
frequently. In 85 passages identified as a communication or behavioral
encounter representing teaching presence, 43.5% of the passages were
coded with the theme "Interpersonal, human relatedness." "Believes in the
agency of the student" represented 27% of the encounters and "Mutual
willingness to be available and by the side of the other" accounted for
17.5% of the encounters mentioned. "Communicates and dialogues
effectively with students" and "Trustworthily pursues the student's best
interest" were described in 7% and 5% of the encounters, respectively.
Although the frequency of mention of each of the five themes alone is not a

sufficient basis for determining a theme's validity, it does weight the
amount of interest this group of students expressed among the five themes
derived from the literature. The five themes, with frequency of occurrence
during the discussion and selected verbatim quotations from the focus
group participants, are presented in Table 2.