NWeLearn: Revisiting Presence and Community in the Online Classroom

Revisiting Presence and Community in the Online Classroom

Patrick Lowenthal, Assistant Professor at Boise State University

Online educators love to talk about social presence and community. In this talk, Patrick will review some of his recent research on social presence and community with the goal of encouraging the audience to not only revisit but challenge current assumptions held about presence and community in the online classroom.

He calls himself an educator, researcher, designer, and developer. He has been teaching online since 2002.

He is excited about hating learning objectives and Quality Matters.

He discussed the history of social presence. “The Social Psychology of Telecommunications.”

He gave a continuum of social presence.

“Given enough time, we will find ways to connect even with email.” (Walther)

Community of Inquiry – The Education Experience: social, cognitive, teaching presence. He reviewed the lit around social presence and communication, and the community of inquiry.

His definition of social presence in an online course: real, there, connection, belonging.

He says that social presence is not the same thing and learning community.

Books he recommends: Situated Learning (1991) & Communities of Practice (1998)

What does an online community look like?

He says that there are benefits to community and social presence – but there is an “over-emphasis.”  

The Atlantic “When Schools Overlook Introverts.”

Does not like Quality Matters because?

It does a good job at scaffolding or creating an template.

His argument is that we need to be better than QM. We have to expect more.
He says we don’t need “virtual hugs” which I am not sure what he means by that. He also says that no student says that they were impressed about the assessments are aligned with the learning objectives. I disagree with this point – when they are not aligned they will definitely let you know.

Quality Matters and templates help solve problems.

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2 Responses to NWeLearn: Revisiting Presence and Community in the Online Classroom

  1. Patrick Lowenthal says:

    My point about “virtual hugs” was in reference to social presence, which is a multi-faceted construct. Often online educators equate social presence to simply giving virtual hugs and assume that every student needs these. I believe that while some students need virtual hugs, many experienced students do not. They simply want to get a sense that their instructor is a real person who is active in the course and wants to help them succeed.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I was not sure what you meant by “virtual hug.” I have spent most of my career in the community colleges where we are still teaching students how to learn, so I have had little experience with “experienced students.” The students I have worked with are concerned about the instructors’ engagement with the course and what the expectations of the course might be. Short weekly videos are helpful for these students (I draw here not only on Paloff and Pratt, but also Doug Hersh’s work at Santa Barbara City Colllege https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/03/29/lms) and while I am not a proponent per se of the QM model, a course template used at the design stage, can help faculty communicate those expectations to students.

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