Social Presence in an Online Learning Environment

Social Presence in an Online Learning Environment

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6956-6.ch001
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Technology alone cannot create the sense of community that is needed for effective online learning. Participants in an online environment can perceive a sense of isolation when social connectedness is not created and encouraged. A community of inquiry emerges when online participants perceive that they are seen and heard and opportunities for active engagement with others is provided. This chapter provides guiding principles for an effective online experience and includes multiple suggestions from an experienced online instructor to create and maintain the social presence of all participants in any online learning experience.
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Social Presence And Social Interactions

Whiteside (2015 , 2018) and Whiteside and Dikkers (2017) explained social interaction as social presence and identified five components: affective association, community cohesion, knowledge and experience, interaction intensity, and instructor involvement. Affective association includes the emotions that might be reflected by both instructor and students, such as sharing humorous stories or personal information. It might be evident when introductions are included at the beginning of a course. Community cohesion includes the behaviors or gestures within the course than unite members, such as sharing tips or advice to course colleagues and speaking of course members as a “we” rather than simply a random group of individuals. Interaction intensity refers to the back and forth exchanges among all participants and might be indicated in an atmosphere in which polite disagreements are as permissible as consensus.

Knowledge and experience relate to the perspective provided decades ago by Vygotsky that learning is enhanced through interactions with a “more knowledgeable other.” Participants in an online learning experience can create together a more dynamic environment in which each member’s individual knowledge can be shared by the group. Instructor involvement includes the ways in which an instructor’s communication is provided in non-judgmental and friendly ways that show an active response to learners’ needs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Synchronous Course: An online course in which all participants gather at the same time for an instructional experience.

Asynchronous Course: An online course in which participants utilize organized online resources on an individual basis to meet instructional objectives.

Teaching Presence: The perception of instructional guidance and support in attaining instructional outcomes in an online course.

Learning Management System: Software that organizes the elements of online instruction into a central location.

Gamification: the inclusion of game like experiences in an online course, such as earning digital badges for completing tasks.

Digital Badging: The use of visual images in an online course that represents an accomplishment or specific level of skill.

Community Of Inquiry: A group of online course participants who collectively experience social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence in a coordinated way.

Social Presence: A sense of connectedness to other participants in an online course.

Cognitive Presence: The experience of being able to create meaning from instruction within an online course.

Digital Resources: Any websites, software, apps that are included in an online course to enhance learning.

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