Vicki Suter

Discovering the power of good questions

Instructor Online Presence Checklist

Aspect of presence Questions for the instructor
Sense of place


There is a “there,” there, with a place for everything and everything in its place.

  • Is there a “start here”?
  • Is the course site well-organized – can the student easily discern where they can find resources, where to find their assignments  and when due, and where to turn them in?
  • Is the course site visually appealing and engaging?
  • Is there a course map (syllabus)?
  • Is there a concept map with a simple organizational visual theme for unification, a representation of the conceptual framework?
  • Are there visual and textual signposts for where the student is in the course?
  • Is there a structured orientation that walks the student through the course site, the course map and the concept map?
Social presence


We are here, together with others, communicating and interacting socially and supporting each other.

  • Have you connected with each student individually before the course begins?
  • Have you developed and circulated a “Getting to Know You” survey?
  • Is there a welcome letter, introducing yourself in a personal way?
  • Is there a welcoming activity that provides students with a structured, engaging, low-stakes way to introduce themselves and get to know each other?
  • Is there a “lounge” for informal interaction?
Individual agency for the learner


I am here, I am visible, I have individual power and control, and can make a difference to the whole.

  • Are there multiple representations of the same concepts (universal design) for different learning styles?
  • Are there multiple opportunities for learner choice and self-direction?
  • Have you designed ways to highlight individual contributions?
Community agency for learners


We can work together, in collaboration, to create new meanings for ourselves and for each other.

  • Have you included opportunities for collaboration (team projects)?
  • Have you provided a team contract model, including team activities for negotiation of and commitment to a contract?
  • Have you clearly described how team projects will be graded (including peer assessment of individual team members)?
  • Have you identified collaboration tools and ensured that students have support for learning how to use them?
Instructor presence


I am here to help you (as designer, facilitator, catalyst, observer, evaluator, mentor) throughout the course.

  • Have you set and communicated your online office hours?
  • Are you using multiple modes of communication (text, voice, video)?
  • Have you planned regular “reach out and touch” points?
  • Do you have checkpoints for early intervention (e.g., student is out of touch for n days)?
  • Have you defined what you mean by “timely feedback” and planned how you are going to deliver it?

Presence Model: from Suter, V. (2011) I am here – are you there? Sense of presence and implications for virtual world design. (Doctoral dissertation, Pepperdine University.). Retrieved from

Lehman, M. & Conceicao, S. (2010). Creating a sense of presence in online teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: