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Creating Social Presence

Summer Session Special Series

The third installment in our special CTE newsletter series focuses on creating your and your students' social presence. When students are not sharing a physical space regularly, they may not feel part of a class community unless you are strategically and intentionally creating spaces for that community to develop. Consider building into your course opportunities for creating and reinforcing social presence. Suggestions for doing so are below.
Human connection
Design your course including learning activities such that you and your students can perceive each other as real human beings on the “other side” of the screen. Learn students’ names, give them a chance to learn each others’ names, offer assignments that allow students to express their personalities and/or creativity (e.g., individual or collaborative wiki pages), and build rapport early in the semester/session.
Venn diagram
Recognize the intersection of your teaching presence and social presence. Establishing and maintaining an inclusive and welcoming course environment depends on skillful contributions from both you and your students. Model for your students productive ways to frame questions, express appreciation, and have constructive discourse.
Schedule interactions
Create regular opportunities for students to interact. In the absence of being together in a physical space where we may more easily develop a sense of connection, online teachers need to be particularly intentional about fostering regular student-student interactions. Begin on day one and weave opportunities for connection and collaboration throughout the course.
Model communication
Monitor and support respectful and productive interactions. Stay cognizant of the ways that bias operates and can lead to situations where you or your students may inadvertently inflict harm on one another. Invite students to co-create ground rules, provide explicit details about how to successfully navigate your course, offer examples of productive and unproductive commentary, and intervene in discussion forums if necessary.
Read more about Creating Social Presence
Read more about Inclusive Virtual Teaching
This series is meant as a primer for more comprehensive programming that the CTE is offering throughout the summer. Next week's issue: Gauging student learning from afar.
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