One of the key elements of an online course is social presence. What is social presence? According to Patrick Lowenthal’s presentation, there are several definitions. Social presence is the “sense of being with another” (Biocca, Harms, & Burgoon), or the “degree to which a person is perceived as a s ‘real person’” (Gunawardena), or “a student’s sense of being in and belonging in a course the ability to interact” (Picciano). Why is this important to online teaching pedagogy? Social presence can bring into an online setting those elements more readily expressed in a face-to-face setting – emotion, humor, interactive responses that allow learners to agree, disagree, self-reflect while interacting with content and others, allowing them to be engaged rather than individual, isolated contributors to the learning process.
Social presence can be intentionally integrated into online courses during the course design phase by developing overviews, incorporating audio and video, or by designing open-ended discussion questions that foster critical thinking and reflective activities. During the course facilitation phase, instructors can establish social presence by employing teaching strategies such as contributing to discussion forums, summarizing discussion threads at the end of the week, sharing personal or professional stories, or providing frequent feedback.
While most Learning Management Systems (LMS) such as Blackboard, Moodle, Desire2Learn and others have built-in tools that facilitate social presence, there are various web-based tools that can be easily incorporated into an LMS to enhance social presence. One such tool is TodaysMeet, “TodaysMeet is a simple and effective Web 2.0 site to get your students and/or teachers using a Twitter-like tool… “ which “helps you embrace the backchannel [discussion] and connect with your audience in ‘twitter-like’ fashion in realtime. How does TodaysMeet work? TodaysMeet allows users to create a room that is designated to a particular discussion. One advantage of using TodaysMeet is that it can be kept private to the students within a course. Another great feature of TodaysMeet is the ability to save the transcript of the discussion for further feedback and reflections.
For instructions on how to set up a discussion room using TodaysMeet, please see the video tutorial below.
To create your own TodaysMeet room, go to https://todaysmeet.com/ to get started.