New Study Discovers the Secret to Successful Student/Professor Connections in Online College Classes

Professor on an laptop giving a lecture

College students, especially recently, are wondering: will I actually be able to form a connection with my professor if my classes are online?

Miguel Ramlatchan
Dr. Miguel Ramlatchan

ODUOnline's assistant vice president for technology Dr. Miguel Ramlatchan conducted a study to find out. In a recent article titled, "Enhancing Instructor Credibility and Immediacy in the Design of Distance Learning Systems and Virtual Classroom Environments" which appeared in the Journal of Applied Instructional Design, Ramlatchan detailed what he and his co-writer discovered, and the results might surprise you.

"We found that camera angle was most important for the social presence of a class," he said. "If there's a really weird camera angle, looking at [the instructor's] forehead or sinus cavity, it takes away from their credibility or their social presence."

Ramlatchan and his team examined several aspects of online learning which may play a part in how a student may view the credibility of an instructor. It wasn't subject matter or the academic program that created a disconnect, so don't worry about "boring" material. The age group of the students, whether or not they were used to online classes, or what type of device they used wasn't as important either. It was all about how the camera was placed. 
"Eye-level is the best scenario," said Ramlatchan, before describing that good "eye contact" for a professor in an online lesson can enhance verbal cues, visual cues, tone, and expression. "These are all important to communication in general," he explains, "but especially instruction."
Ramlatchan oversees Old Dominion University's Academic Technology Services department, which supports technology for online learning. This could involve everything from making sure ODU's online professors have the correct camera equipment to setting up and managing complex streaming events with hundreds of participants. 
You can read Dr. Ramlatchan's study here. 

Old Dominion University, located in the coastal city of Norfolk, is Virginia's entrepreneurial-minded doctoral research university and has been delivering distance-learning programs for 30 years. It offers more than 100 programs through ODUOnline in a variety of formats, allowing students to complete degree programs across the world. ODU serves more than 24,000 students annually by providing the same rigorous academics online and on-campus. Learn more about ODUOnline's programs by visiting online.odu.edu.