Redesigning distance courses to support social and teaching presence in adult and upper secondary education

Charlotta Hilli, Anna Åkerfeldt, Education in the North

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This paper investigates how teachers in adult and upper secondary education promote social and teaching presence by redesigning their distance courses. Social and teaching presence is analysed through the Community of Inquiry model. The implications stem from an ongoing project in Sweden and Finland (2019–2021) called Digital learning environments - equal education through remote and distance teaching (DL). Three schools from the project are used as cases to answer the questions: What do teachers perceive as challenging when designing for presence in distance education? How do teachers work with these challenges to develop presence in distance education? A design-based research approach is used to address the problems teachers identified in their practices. The empirical material includes group discussions, written plans, and presentations. The teacher groups critically examined how and when communication and interactions with students took place in the digital environment. Parallel, they also read research on the topics. The study suggests the teachers promoted social and teaching presence in different ways depending on their school context. In adult education, the courses were flexible regarding time and space, making frequent teacher-student interactions (e.g., chat, email, feedback) important to establish teaching presence. The upper secondary teachers included student-student interactions (e.g., mind maps, quizzes, discussions, peer-feedback) to promote social presence in their courses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-55
Number of pages18
JournalEducation in the North
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2020


  • upper secondary school
  • adult education
  • design-based research
  • Community of Inquiry
  • teaching presence
  • social presence
  • distance education


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