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Social Presence

Social presence relates to the establishment of a supportive learning community, providing a venue for communication within a trusted environment where students can express individual identities and establish social relationships (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000).

We have all experienced that awkward moment when we were new to our surroundings and had to stretch our comfort level in order to reach out to others in group situations. Being welcomed into a new environment helps us to settle in and to trust our surroundings enough to be comfortable sharing within established communication venues.

Social presence measures that welcoming setting. Every class should be open and inviting so that our students will want to engage with the instructor, with the content, and with each other. Interaction is a key element of establishing a sense of belonging within a vibrant learning community.

Examples include

  • Allowing risk-free expression;
  • Drawing in participants;
  • Encouraging collaboration;
  • Establishing instructor presence;
  • Engaging in supportive contact and interactions.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Effective Practices:  Creating and Instructor Profile

One of the first things you can do in support of social presence is to develop a customized instructor profile for each course you teach. The goal of the profile is to allow your students to get to know a bit about you before you embark on the learning journey together. Your instructor profile sets the stage for interaction and is a critical component of establishing a CoI focused teaching approach. Your profile allows you to share your professional and personal experiences as they relate to the subject matter and to reach out to your students as you would in the first class scheduled in a face-to-face environment.

The CoI framework supports the construct that you should let your profile take on a narrative style and share your stories so that your students feel comfortable sharing theirs.