Sunday, November 29, 2009

4.3.2: Enhancing online social connectedness

The latest issue of Distance Education (30, 3) once again contains some excellent articles. The first, "Theoretical foundations for enhancing social connectedness in online learning environments" by Slagter von Tryon & Bishop, is a valuable (if not lengthy!) piece on improving social presence in online discourse.

The article underscores the importance of making a good first impression, as all exchanges with others communicate something about the author's nature and competance and help determine the social pecking order of the group. Using a Delphi methodology, the authors recommend the following to improve social presence:
  • Providing opportunity for students to develop a group structure, through high quantity and quality social interaction.
  • Providing comprehensive technical support.
  • Providing persistent follow-up, particularly so that students are paced in their discourse so that the exchange does not become isolating and is socially consistent.
The authors proceed to develop a 'social connectedness design framework' that considers the three elements required for social interaction (status assessments, norm development and role differentiation) across the three recommendations coming from their Delphi results (increased interactions, comprehensive technical support, and persistent follow-up). The bottom line is that students need opportunities to 'be' themselves in the context of technical support and online exercises that draw attention to the fact that they are individuals within a common community.

While 'social presence' is not new and is now understood reasonably well, the article does provide an important focus on what continues to be a central aspect of online discourse.

No comments: