For the Teaching online courses, project 2, the class is divided into groups, each group is given a subject. The assignment is to create and moderate an online discussion. This week the online discussion was about Social Presence.
The Social Presence group asked three questions of the class, and each student could answer one of them. I chose the third one, which was two-fold. “How can an instructor increase his/her social presence” and, “How can an instructor increase student-to-student interaction outside of instructional activities.” My expanded answer follows.
It is important to note that the social presence of the professor is crucial. A “Regular and timely interaction of faculty with students is one of the key quality indicators of online courses.” Bottcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). This needs to be done on a regular basis, especially early on. The teacher/instructor/professor may establish an online presence by posting information about the course before it begins and telling students a little about themselves. (This is usually when the icebreaker begins.) An instructor also may post notes and announcements, have live sessions, or virtual meeting times.
In addition to using the learning management system (blackboard) the teacher can also use other social tools like Twitter. My husband teaches Visual Communications (higher ed) and he often reminds his students about projects by tweeting short messages. In the summer he tweets some of the things he is doing or articles/books he is reading. His students often respond to the tweets.
Although faculty can’t be online all the time, students need to know the professor is there by answering questions in a forum, or participating in a discussion thread. Encouragement, suggestions and ideas also help create social presence for faculty.
Bottcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips.(75-80) San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.