As online teaching and learning is becoming expected in institutions of higher learning there is a growing need to ensure quality online instruction. Social learning theories highlight the importance of student interaction in the learning process. Standard benchmarks of online education call for the inclusion of interaction between students and between students and the instructor. Using the Community of Inquiry as the conceptual framework, this study explored the importance of establishing and maintaining social presence in the online environment to set the tone for a successful online experience. Through a Delphi process, expert participants identified specific skills and techniques needed to establish and maintain student and instructor social presence. They also identified indicators, advantages, and disadvantages of social presence. The results produced best practices to guide instructors in designing, teaching and facilitating an online course in a social context. Results also show specific support for setting the climate and supporting discourse, two key areas in the Community of Inquiry. Implications of the study have positive impacts on student satisfaction and learning, instructor confidence and abilities, as well as retention rates for colleges and universities.
Research produced best practices to guide instructors in designing, teaching and facilitating an on-line course in a social context. Research also shows specific support for setting the climate and supporting discourse, two key areas in the Community of Inquiry.
Best Practices for Establishing and Maintaining Social Presence in an Online Learning Environment
Train and Prepare
Require students to have social media accounts
Force socially present behavior just for the social aspect
Introduce yourself & Model behavior
Focus on technology
Confuse social presence with social networking
Instruct AND Facilitate
Offer informal evaluations
Make note of what works and what doesn’t
As on-line teaching and learning is becoming expected in institutions of higher learning, there is a growing need to ensure quality online instruction. Research has shown that social interaction is a key component to successful online teaching and learning. However, the nature and extent of the social interaction is often unclear. Through research of social interaction, the important concepts of social presence and community have emerged. Students need a sense of belonging to a group. Social interaction cannot be taken for granted simply because the environment makes it possible. It is a conscious and deliberate effort that must be encouraged, facilitated, and maintained.Social learning theories highlight the importance of student interaction in the learning process. Standard benchmarks of on-line education call for the inclusion of interaction between students and between students and the instructor. Using the Community of Inquiry as the conceptual framework, which presents the intertwining of social, cognitive, and teaching presence, research explored the importance of establishing and maintaining social presence in the online environment to set the tone for a successful on-line experience.
The effective practice of establishing and maintaining social presence in the online learning environment relates to the pillars of faculty and student satisfaction.
Positive implications for faculty include:
Confidence in facilitating the course
Partnering with students in the teaching/learning process
Establishing appropriate boundaries for how and when to interact with students
Satisfaction in the successful implementation of an online course that produces meaningful interaction
Positive implications for students include:
A sense of belonging to the group
Increased interaction with other students and the instructor
A comfort level for collaborating with other students to reach goals
Increase chance of taking another online course
(An added bonus for colleges and universities includes increased retention and a reputation of a caring institution that offers dynamic instruction.) This could be related to the scale pillar.
No additional equioment needed outside of computers and a learning management system.
No additional cost outside of the normal university expenses of faculty compensation.
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