By Sarah Darrow

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

ODUOnline's assistant vice president for technology, Miguel Ramlatchan, conducted a study to find out. In a recent article, "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.

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 that may play a part in how a student views an instructor's credibility. It wasn't subject matter or the academic program that created a disconnect. 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, noting that good eye contact for a professor in an online lesson can enhance verbal and visual cues, tone and expression. "These are all important to communication in general, 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.

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