Anderson (2018) acknowledges that there have been recommendations for additional presences,
such as vicarious, emotional, and autonomy presence, that he has not endorsed. He asserts that
they already exist in the original model but notes that further definition within social presence may
address these recommendations. However, Anderson is supportive of adding learner presence to
the model based on a large study conducted by Shea and Bidjerano (2010). Learner presence
represents elements of online self-regulation, such as self-efficacy, cognition, behavior, and
motivation. Shea and Bidjerano (2010) examined the relationship between learner self-efficacy and
how they rated the quality of their learning in online learning environments and found a positive
relationship between the CoI framework and learner presence. Adding this presence allows for the
CoI model to evolve beyond a teaching model to a teaching and learning model in which teachers
need to match their teaching to the capacity of the learner (Anderson, 2018).
Paz and Pereira (2015) proposed that regulated learning be added to the teaching presence in the
CoI model to demonstrate the overlap between cognitive and teaching presence because it focuses
on the coregulation of learning and metacognition by both faculty and students. Adding this to
teaching presence acknowledges the role of both learners and faculty in the teaching process, which
is in keeping with Vygotsky’s (1978/1997) ZPD and collaborativist learning theory. However, the
categories within regulated learning found by the study conducted by Paz and Pereira seem to
coincide with group-process issues with collaborative group work because they include confirming
understanding of tasks, assessing work process, suggesting improvements, and reminding and
encouraging others to contribute to the work, to name a few.
The main point of adding regulated learning to cognitive presence in the CoI model or adding learner
presence as a fourth presence is that there is an acknowledgment of the need to consider both
teaching and learning because they inform each other in the online learning environment. Both of
these additions are congruent with our understanding that the three interactions of student to
content, student to student, and student to faculty and the three presences of the CoI model inform
Teaching Strategies to Demonstrate Presence and Engagement
Helping students move through the process of inquiry is much more demanding, requiring strong
online teaching skills. In today’s political and social environment of “alternate truths” and media
saturation, it is essential that students learn to critically explore and evaluate the information they
encounter and the knowledge they are constructing (Anderson, 2018). This is never more evident
than at the time of writing this chapter during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Many working
nurses are coping with caring for patients without proper personal protective equipment and
continual policy changes as evidence about the coronavirus evolves. This is a time when faculty and
students are learning together to maneuver through a global crisis.
Postlicensure nursing students are adult learners, are increasingly self-directed, and have
experiences that provide for a rich learning environment (Candela, 2020). Therefore, we see
ourselves as learners and colleagues in the online learning environment with a responsibility to
provide meaningful learning experiences that are relevant to the life and work experiences of
students. As colleagues, it has been our preference to use our first names in working with students.
However, given different students’ comfort level because of cultural differences, we advise them
that they may refer to us by our first name or by “Professor.” Collegiality does not negate the
responsibility of faculty to understand the power differential between faculty and student and the
impact of this on the faculty–student relationship.
It is important for faculty to be aware of the stressors students are facing, even in the best of times,
given the multiple competing demands on our students’ lives. The ability to have high standards
while holding students accountable yet being flexible meets the needs of adult learners. We, as
educators, have found this balance challenging at times. It is important for faculty to discern when
students are having difficulties with time management versus facing challenging life issues, such as a
dying parent, a divorce, or caring for a child with special needs. The faculty response needs to be one
of respect and compassion, whether it be holding students accountable to deadlines or granting
extensions. We work closely with the professional advisor to help students persist and be successful
in meeting their goals, as discussed in Chapter 4.
Faculty presence throughout the entire course is important to keep students engaged and
motivated. This can be challenging because there are many demands on faculty time. Nursing
students vary considerably in their ability to persist in the absence of a consistent teaching presence.
We have found that one way to ensure teaching presence during particularly busy times is to
monitor student participation on a weekly basis to ensure they are engaged and to reach out to
those who have not participated. In the discussion, we find it helpful to first respond to those
students who do not have a peer response.
Faculty provide an active teaching presence by drawing attention to important scaffolded concepts
by their selection and arrangement of course materials, highlighting specific course content, and
providing responses in the discussions. Faculty may also summarize discussions by highlighting
patterns. Further, faculty model the skills they expect of their students through their own responses
and feedback (Cormier & Siemans, 2010).
Faculty need to be able to sustain a strong presence through facilitation of the discussions and direct
instruction (Garrison, 2007). Further, Edwards, Perry, and Janzen (2011) found that exemplary online
faculty maintained high expectations and challenged students to think more deeply while also
finding opportunities to affirm their personal worth by letting students know that they were
succeeding. Exemplary online faculty recognized their students’ potential and encouraged them.
Table 9-3 lists some strategies that we have found helpful in demonstrating presence and
engagement that also illustrate that we care about our students and their success.
Online Collaborative Activities
Faculty need to carefully manage individual and collaborative learning activities that build on
constructivist and adult education theory. For example, collaborative discussions that are relevant to
nursing students’ experience provide opportunities for meaningful interaction that recognizes their
experience. Online activities can be offered synchronously or asynchronously.
Synchronous online activities are those learning activities that take place in realtime through the use
of video or audio-conferencing technology. We have found synchronous activities to be helpful in
providing instructions or clarifying a complex topic and addressing questions. Synchronous activities
should be recorded so that students who could not attend can listen to the recording on their own
time. Asynchronous activities involve students engaging in the same activities at different times and
locations. We have found that asynchronous activities are one of the many advantages of online
learning because of the flexibility to complete coursework based on the student’s schedule.
Group work in the online learning environment can be particularly frustrating for both faculty and
students, which often results in avoiding it. Different styles of how students work contribute to the
challenges. For example, some students like to start early, and others wait until the last minute.
Some students like to take control, not trusting their peers, whereas some students prefer to let
others do the majority of the work. Further challenges involve living in different time zones and
having different work schedules. Therefore, it is very important to be purposeful in planning how the
group work will be set up, keeping in mind the leveling of coursework in the program of study and
the learning outcomes you want to achieve.
We have found that the key to successful group work is providing clear instructions and assigning
individual work that needs to be done first so that every group member comes prepared to fully
collaborate in the group experience. When students initially begin working in a group that requires a
final product, faculty need to provide information on the purpose of group work and guidance on
how to work collaboratively. It is important to closely monitor the group process to ensure that
students are working well together.
Harasim’s (2017) collaborativist theory and the CoI model are different, yet similar ways of
understanding how students may collaboratively move through the knowledge-construction
process. The collaborativist theory has not been used for research purposes to the extent that the
CoI model has. Chapter 15 presents an extensive study that assesses online collaborative discourse
in discussions and group work using collaborativist theory (formerly referred to as online
Special attention is given to online discussions in this chapter because of the integral part they have
in online education. Online discussions provide a space for open-ended thinking, exchange of
information, and collaborative reflection, allowing students to make connections between theory
and practice and promoting peer learning (Arend, 2009; Liu, 2019). The purpose of online
discussions is to provide an opportunity for students to explore different concepts, apply course
material to real life, or dig deeper into a concept or topic (Arend, 2009). Many online instructors find
that the built-in time for reflection in asynchronous discussions encourages more critical and
reflective thought (Arend, 2009).
Constructing the discussion forum and the importance of the trigger questions or discussion
prompts are addressed in Chapter 8. Keeping in mind Bloom’s or Fink’s taxonomy, as discussed in