Enhancing Social Presence in Online Courses: Facilitation Strategies and Best Practices

Enhancing Social Presence in Online Courses: Facilitation Strategies and Best Practices

Charity L. B. Jennings (Center for Allied Health Education, USA & University of Phoenix, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2132-8.ch015
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Online course delivery offers benefits to diverse populations of college students seeking to balance their studies with commitments such as jobs and family. For adult and rural learners in particular, online courses create opportunities for learning that may not otherwise be available. Faculty members who instruct online courses are responsible for creating a robust, engaging, and rigorous learning environment that leads students to meet their educational and professional goals. Developing an engaging social presence in the online classroom is a key part of developing classroom community. Enhancing one's social presence requires strategies that develop opportunities for student mastery and critical thinking, support students' development in the affective and conative domains, and encourage students to make high-quality contributions to online discussions. Strategies include community building, humanizing the course, faculty immediacy, structured discussion prompts, effective follow-up questions, facilitating collaboration, curriculum enhancements, and feedback and grading.
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Community Building To Humanize The Course

Engaging in “community building” is an important category of techniques to increase social presence in online classes (Thormann & Fidalgo, 2014, p. 379). Thormann and Fidalgo (2014) identified four guidelines, including promoting “personal connections,” encouraging “classmates to extend their learning,” recognizing that “relationships increase work quality,” and building “a sense of belonging” among the members of a class (p. 383).

Student-Centered Online Courses

A student-centered approach to learning and teaching is common among many online models. Students are often motivated by their educational and professional goals when deciding to enroll in a degree program. Those student goals are the keys to the successful facilitation of online courses. Students’ goals are the pillars that shape the course curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

Effective online course facilitation involves supporting students to drive their own learning, by serving as the “guide on the side” rather than the “sage on the stage” (King, 1993). This method promotes students as active participants in their own learning who are engaged with the structure of their discipline of study (Morrison, 2014). In this way, faculty members provide guidance and coaching for students’ pursuit of their goals. Faculty members facilitate student learning and development of knowledge by providing guidance. Students' career goals and work experience also help to anchor students' learning. An important lesson learned related to making a course student-centered is the role of the faculty in drawing out students’ experiences and prior learning to help them connect to new knowledge and skills in the course.

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