Traditional design education relies heavily on passive presence awareness and unfocused interaction. Support for these modes of communication is largely absent from current computing environments. This paper reports on Compadres, a system for support of distributed collaborators through creation of group presence awareness on the web. Compadres provides configurable communications options, in both synchronous and asynchronous modes, including links for messaging, email, chat, and online file management. Compadres can support multiple workgroups or small classes. Two levels of presence awareness are provided: a real-time presence monitor for synchronous interaction, and an extended-time (historical) radar-view for "asynchronous presence" and collaborator engagement through way-laying. The basic system requires very little band-width, but the system extends easily to support desktop or camera image streams for real-time activity awareness. The system supports itinerant, or mobile, users (such as students) as well as situated users (such as faculty). Finally Compadres provides a framework for continued exploration of presence awareness. We have used this to explore a variety of alternative "soft" media presence awareness models.