Date of Award

May 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Urban Education

First Advisor

Simone C. O. Conceição

Committee Members

Larry G. Martin, Liliana Mina, Carol Colbeck, Jacques Du Plessis


Elearning, Experiences, Faculty, Instructor, Online Learning, Presence


The purpose of this interpretive phenomenological research study was to gain an understanding of how faculty who teach fully online courses perceive and experience presence. The 25 faculty participants in this study were drawn from a four-year institution of higher education in the Midwest. The faculty designed and taught their own courses. Data were collected through: (1) semi-structured in-depth interviews with each participant, (2) documentary analysis of two course syllabi from two different course offerings for each participant, and (3) observations of five participants’ online course sites over the duration of an academic semester (16 week course). Findings revealed that faculty perceived presence as “being seen.” Faculty were concerned with projecting their personalities online and they wanted their students to see them for who they were. An emotional dimension to the experiences of presence emerged in the interviews. Emotional responses of faculty to online instruction influenced their experiences of presence. An intriguing finding was that the perception and experience of presence required a cognitive reframing of the online learning environment. A traditional classroom environment is characterized by a one-to-many relationship from faculty to students. In the online environment, this transformed into many one-to-one relationships between faculty and individual students. Experiences of presence were heightened when participants were able to change their mindset and understand and acknowledge the change. Finally, this study introduced the conceptualization of online instruction as a dramatic performance enacted by the faculty to an audience of students. A diagrammatic depiction of online instruction as a staged performance is also provided.