January 23, 2015

The importance of Social Presence in Online Courses

People frequently criticize the online environment for being cold. They say that during online courses they feel lonely and demotivated to learn.

And why is that?

Studies about Social Presence might help us understand about an important aspect in online courses.

What is Social Presence?

According to Menezes (2014), Social Presence is how people perceive their own presence and the presence of others in a virtual interaction and the willingness to build an interpersonal relationship in order to learn collaboratively.

To me, Social Presence depends a lot on how participants choose to take part in an online course. Of course, it also depends on the opportunities of interaction provided during the course.

Let's compare two students:

Student A studies alone. He uses books and the internet to build knowledge.

Student B is taking a course with other students. Besides learning via the material suggested by his teacher, he likes exchanging ideas and discussing about what he's been learning with his classmates.

In the virtual world we can have a similar situation. We can choose to act like Student A, focussing on developing tasks on our own or we can behave like Student B making use of the opportunity to work with the group exchanging ideas and making connections.

We should bear in mind three kinds of course content we can learn from:
- The content proposed by the teacher.
- The content suggested by participants.
- The content built by participants during the course.

When we study alone during an online course, we might be missing the opportunity to learn more with one another.

Here are few tips on how to develop your presence during online courses:


MENEZES, A. M. C. A vivência da presença social: histórias de um curso online para professores de Inglês. (2014) M.A. Thesis. 186 p. Universidade Federal de Uberlândia. http://goo.gl/kNyAck


ISSN 0102-5503 - Ano LI - 200
Janeiro / Março - 2013
Revista da Associação Brasileira de Tecnologia Educacional v. 31 


GARRISON, D. (2006)Online Collaboration Principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. Vol. 10, No. 1, p. 25-34. Disponível em <http://tinyurl.com/6r9bjwz >, acesso em 16/04/12.

GUNAWARDENA, C. N. (1995)Social presence theory and implications for interaction and collaborative learning in computer conferences. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, p. 147-166.


Aoife said...

Really nice post :-) It's very easy to isolate yourself through online/distance learning. Ideally, courses like this will have a face to face component or at least Skype, chat elements in prevent complete autonomy. There is so much to be learned from other participants on the course. Sharing ideas and developing through shared knowledge is one of the best parts. Love your visuals :-)

Anonymous said...

I am taking 2 online courses (at 2 different Universities) have to say the interface if not condusive to collaboration you will never get the level of interaction. Universities need to step up their game...get with 40 million others and use google drive. It seems like a no brainer.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this Ana Maria. I took part in my first online course as a course moderator last year during the TESOL EVO weeks. What I found so inspiring was the community that built up during that course and continued when it was over. I had had no idea about online teaching before that but was thrilled to see that participants interacted with each other as well as with the instructors. Your post reminded me of what a wonderful experience it was.

Ana Maria Menezes said...

Thanks Marjorie, and everyone who's left comments. It's great to see other people feel the same as to the beauty of learning collaboratively and the challenges which lie ahead to all universities and schools creating online courses.

Sheila Vine said...

Dear Ana
I love this post and would appreciate you permission to link to it as part of my online course starting soon.
The interaction simply makes or breaks the course and it is part of the course moderators skill to encourage this interaction.

Ana Maria Menezes said...

Of course, Sheila. You can use the link to this post. It's very important that online course moderators and participants are aware of how important interaction is. I've started an online course now and I can see the difference.