Zones of Agency: Understanding Online Faculty Experiences of Presence

  • Anita Samuel Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences
Keywords: presence, online education, faculty development, determinants of presence


As instructors are forced to move their courses online, they are confronted by a sense of isolation and distance from their learners. Research has shown that feelings of loneliness are mitigated when presence is created in the online environment. An interpretive phenomenological analysis was conducted at a public university in the United States to answer the question: What are the determinants of presence for instructors in online teaching? Twenty-five online instructors from various disciplines, with diverse levels of experience teaching online, were recruited for the study. Interviews, analysis of course syllabi, and observations of course sites revealed five determinants of presence for online instructors: content, format, strategies, technology, and students. The crucial factor in deciding an instructor’s experience of presence was the degree of agency instructors had over these determinants. This paper introduces the Zones of Agency for Online Instructors model and describes how the model can be used to enhance instructors’ experiences of presence.

Author Biography

Anita Samuel, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences

Dr. Anita Samuel is Assistant Director of Distance Learning and Assistant Professor with the Center for Health Professions Education at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.


She earned her doctorate in Urban Education with a specialization in Administrative Leadership in Adult, Continuing, and Higher Education and her areas of research are online education and faculty development. She strongly believes that student success is dependent on educator satisfaction and is passionate about the welfare of educators. She has won various awards for her work including the 2019 Innovation in Education Award at USU and the Graduate Student Research Award for her work on faculty experiences in the online environment.

How to Cite
Samuel, A. (2020). Zones of Agency: Understanding Online Faculty Experiences of Presence . The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 21(4), 79-95.
Research Articles