Presence and Learning

It is important for learners to understand that we are actually present and active in the online class as we are not visible to them. We want them to know that we are reading their postings, watching activities unfold, and taking note of the process of learning.This is referred to as ‘instructor presence.’ Throughout the four weeks, you will find tips and strategies to establish and maintain presence without being overbearing or stifling learner initiative.

Doug Hamilton (1:03)

Developing a Learning Community

Often there is a place, such as a Café forum, set aside for social interactions. This is an area where learners can share their lives a bit, and have discussions that are not related to the course curriculum. It serves as a place for conversations that might occur outside of the classroom.

Social activities are best framed as optional so that learners feel they can choose to what extent they want to be involved in extra-curricular socializing. Examples of connecting activities include:

  • A thread (or Flickr space) set up to share photos from people's home, work, family, and special events.
  • Threads for learners to talk about what they are going to do on holiday break, after the course is done, etc.
  • An exchange of links to personal blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.

A course forum for questions and answers (Q&A) can be useful as a place to ask questions and get clarification. Learners often answer each other’s questions before the instructor has time to respond. This helps your learners begin to develop skills that will transfer to other online learning - both formal and informal.

Developing a sense of community can begin from providing opportunities to create connections between participants and between participants and the course content. Don't be afraid to use your imagination and get creative; bring who you are to the online environment. At the same time watch that you don't overwhelm the group with additional activities that burden them. Keep it simple and make much of it optional.

Doug Hamilton (:47)

Paramount to creating a learning community is creating a sense of safety. As a facilitator, the tenor of all your postings should model the kind of respectful, constructive communications you want to foster between learners. Be appreciative and acknowledging of the group's efforts and contributions. Be judicious about singling people out and never berate or criticize an individual or group publicly. In Unit Three, we will be looking more deeply into the issue of group dynamics in an online environment.

A Facilitation Tip

Before you begin a weekly unit, preview the required learning activities, including online discussions, to look for opportunities to enrich or enhance the unit's materials. Think about how you will “add value” to the participants' learning process. Adding value might be accomplished through the suggestion of a timely resource to read, a “practical tip”, or a personal story that helps illustrate a key point.