Social Presence

I am continuing to develop an open course in Sport Informatics and Analytics.
I am thinking more and more about the possibilities of engagement with and within this course.
This week some links shared by Stephen Downes and one from DERN have sent me off to contemplate social presence in open courses.
Perhaps I am inclined to do this because of my comfort with the nurturing and social reform models of teaching discussed by Tony Bates this week. Tony suggests:

Of all the models of teaching these two are the most learner centred. They are based on an overwhelmingly optimistic view of human nature, that people will seek out and learn what they need, and will find the necessary support from caring, dedicated educators and from others with similar interests and concerns, and that individuals have the capacity and ability to identify and follow through with their own educational needs.

I have been thinking about modular and non-linear opportunities to support motivated, self-organised learning. I am trying to balance the disposition to learn with the design of content.
Edynco’s learning maps started me off thinking about the form the content might take.
MIT has been grappling with the content issue too.
The final report of the Institute-wide task force on the future of MIT Education envisions “a future that includes a wide array of options where traditional plans may be offered alongside new paths, and where online tools enable modular and flexible learning opportunities that enrich the overall MIT educational experience”.  The report addresses modularsation in Recommendation 7.

The way in which students are accessing material points to the need for the modularization of online classes whenever possible. The very notion of a “class” may be outdated. This in many ways mirrors the preferences of students on campus. The unbundling of classes also reflects a larger trend in society—a number of other media offerings have become available in modules, whether it is a song from an album, an article in a newspaper, or a chapter from a textbook. Modularity also enables “just-in-time” delivery of instruction, further enabling project-based learning on campus and for students worldwide.

Last week, I wrote about conversation, conviviality and focused attention in synchronous learning environments.
This week Karen Kear, Frances Chetwynd and Helen Jefferis’  (2014) have encouraged me to think about how we connect in these environments and share personal information. They observe:

we should think of social presence as ‘a dynamic sense of others and relationships with them in mediated environments’ (Kehrwald 2010. p. 45), rather than something that can be easily conveyed via a static personal profile.

In his paper, Ben Kehrwald (2010) shares a continuum of social presence
In a separate presentation, Ben suggests the following to support students on this continuum:

(a) provide models of good practice in online communication, including the cultivation of social presence

(b) motivate learners to establish and cultivate a positive social presence

(c) create explicit opportunities for the establishment of online social presence

(d) generate interpersonal interaction that supports ongoing demonstrations of presence and the development of relations between individuals; and

(e) structure relatively low-risk experiences from which learners can learn to both convey an ongoing social presence and read the presence of others.

I like point (e) in particular.
My course will have a number of community drivers. This week’s links from Stephen and DERN have helped me think more about how these drivers might operate to develop a sensitive, inclusive approach to anyone keen to explore informatics and analytics.

Photo Credits

London Marathon #51 (Michael Garnett, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The Conversation (Maria Rosario Sannino, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Help is on the way (Cory Doctorow, CC BY-SA 2.0)


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