Developing and fostering social presence in online learning environments. Jocelyn MacKay. [email_address]
This presentation aims to show facilitators how to increase the cognitive presence of their students by identifying key strategies to foster and grow social presence inside online learning communities.
Social presence has been defined as the degree to which a person feels “socially present” and taking part in the interactions in any community. (Gunawardena, 2005: Wise, Chang, Duffy, & del Valle, 2004).
Garrison and Anderson (2003) defined cognitive presence “ as the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection, and discourse in a critical community of inquiry” (p. 28).
In a traditional face-to-face learning environment the vibrancy and the engagement of the learners can often be gauged by observing the interactions between those learners.
The cohesiveness of the group, the verbal clues, the paralinguistic cues, the fast paced conversations, the body language, the motivation and the social equality gives us valuable clues as to the social presence of the group.
<ul><li>As teachers we would recognise social presence clues such as: </li></ul><ul><li>eye contact </li></ul><ul><li>body language </li></ul><ul><li>excitement </li></ul><ul><li>asking questions </li></ul><ul><li>responding </li></ul><ul><li>feedback </li></ul><ul><li>use of humour </li></ul><ul><li>complimenting </li></ul><ul><li>expressing agreement </li></ul>
Garrison and Anderson have defined social presence, in an online community, as “the ability of participants in a community of inquiry to project themselves socially and emotionally as ‘real’ people, through the medium of communication being used”. (2003, p. 29).
In an online environment, where the community of learners are geographically spread and logging into the community asynchronously (at different times), a facilitator must still gauge the depth of the engagement and learning in that environment.
How do we gauge social presence online when we can't make eye contact?
Recording the number of logins in an online environment indicates a participatory presence but in no way measures learning and does not , “guarantee that students are engaged in an educationally meaningful manner”.
What tools can a facilitator use to measure social presence in online environments?
Garrison and Anderson in their book, "E-learning in the 21 Century, A Framework For Research and Practice", have created social presence classification and indicators.
Marlborough ll Teaching and Learning Cluster online records
Marlborough ll Teaching and Learning Cluster online records
<ul><li>The authors believe indicators or clues for social presence contain: </li></ul><ul><li>expressions of emotion </li></ul><ul><li>humour </li></ul><ul><li>‘ personalisations’ </li></ul><ul><li>greetings </li></ul><ul><li>inclusion </li></ul><ul><li>reference to previous messages </li></ul><ul><li>self-disclosure </li></ul><ul><li>These can be seen in the online discourse. </li></ul>
What does that look like... Examples shown are taken from the Marlborough online learning environment.
<ul><li>Other clues include: </li></ul><ul><li>asking questions of each other </li></ul><ul><li>affirming messages </li></ul><ul><li>collaborative cohesion where members address the group as “we”, “us” or “our group.” </li></ul>
<ul><li>On the next slide is an example of an online conversation. Can you see examples in the discourse of : </li></ul><ul><li>Expression of emotion </li></ul><ul><li>Greeting </li></ul><ul><li>Emoticon </li></ul><ul><li>Use of humour /Teasing </li></ul><ul><li>Self disclosure </li></ul><ul><li>Reference to previous message </li></ul><ul><li>Continuation of a thread </li></ul><ul><li>Affirmation </li></ul>
Just looking at the number of responses does not give us a good indication of the success of our online community. Rather we need to look for interactions displaying examples of these cues that make a community and the learners socially vibrant.
“ The success of online conferencing lies in the hands of the teacher who ‘facilitates’ discussions along the way, keeping the momentum going when needed’ (Stacey, 2002, p. 287).
The higher number of interactions involving as many learners as possible, fosters the engagement of those learners, and creates social presence in the online environment.
You now know what social presence looks like in online discussions. How can you as a facilitator build this capacity in your online environments?
Use software that affixes photos beside posts. Model this, and tell students how they can do it too. This helps to personalise the interactions
Some learners want to remain anonymous for a number of reasons, eg cultural and religious beliefs, gender issues, shyness. Be accepting of this. Not every one wants to "put themselves out there". Continue to encourage participation.
Begin each new reading / requirement with a self disclosure. (Expose yourself!) Watch your spelling, grammar and surface features too.
<ul><li>Model good online behaviour and practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples here include: </li></ul><ul><li>Personalisations </li></ul><ul><li>Greeting </li></ul><ul><li>Affirming message </li></ul>
Model good online behaviour and practice. Examples here include: Personalisations Greeting Affirming message Direct reference to contents of the previous message Quoting from message Use of emotion and emotions
Begin each task with questions that requires reflection on classroom practice
Generate a sense of belonging, a sense of community in your responses. Ask questions.
Ask questions of one respondent, others may respond.
Ask questions and encourage others to elaborate.
Be supportive: Provide support mechanisms — you can ring me on... or email me at... Hold the hands of the tentative
Model for and provide scaffolding so the reluctant participants and silent participants (lurkers) want to contribute.
It is all about relationships Build a sense of trust with ALL the learners. Trust between facilitator and learner, and importantly between learners
Generate a sense of community by offering ideas and resources in your responses.
Create “an environment that will draw “customers” to the site, and, hold their attention, “a concept known as “stickiness”, and therefore increase usage and learning”. (Preece, Nonnecke and Andrews 2004, p.4)
Respond to every posting, which helps the “stickiness”. Use software that ‘pings’ the author an email when someone has replied to their comment, or has a notify me tab. Tell your learners about this feature. You have mail
Social presence is vital for a cohesive vibrant community where high levels of interactions are reflective of the groups cohesion. Wise et al. (2004) argue “it is not the medium itself which determines social presence but rather what the participants do in that medium” (p. 249).
<ul><li>Garrison and Anderson (2003) believe that a vibrant online community includes three vital elements: </li></ul><ul><li>social presence </li></ul><ul><li>teaching presence (your facilitation skills) </li></ul><ul><li>and cognitive presence. </li></ul><ul><li>For cognitive presence to be sustained then social presence must be established first. </li></ul>
An example of reflection, construction and cognitive presence from a participant
It is cognitive presence that is vital for effective meaningful learning in that community (Garrison and Cleveland Jones, 2005). This brings a balance to online learning.
References: Garrison, D. R., & Anderson, T. (2003). E-learning in the 21st century: A Framework for Research and Practice. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Garrison, D. R., & Cleveland – Jones, M. (2005). Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online learning: Interaction Is Not Enough . The American Journal Of Distance Education. v19(3). pp133-148. Gunawardena, C. (2005). Social Presence and Implications for Designing Online Learning Communities. Paper presented Fourth International Conference on Educational Technology,July 31 - August 3. China. www.edu.cn/include/new_jiaoyuxxh/xiazai/gunawardena.ppt Retrieved 6 October 2006. Preece, J., Nonnecke, B., Andrews, D. (2004) The Top 5 Reasons For Lurking: Improving Community Experiences For Everyone. Computers in Human Behavior. v2 (1) ( in press ) Stacey, E. (2002). Social Presence Online: Networking Learners at a Distance. Education and Information Technologies 7(4) pp 287-294. Wise, A., Chang, J., Duffy, T., and del Valle, R. (2004). The Effects of Teacher Social Presence On Student Satisfaction. Engagement and Learning. Journal Educational Computing Research v31 (3) pp 247 -271.