“Social Presence” or a sense of ‘belonging’ is important in any classroom setting,
whether face to face or at a distance. It is needed to create a level of
comfort in which people feel at ease around the teacher/facilitator and other
class participants. Social Presence is a direct contributor to the success of an
education experience when there are affective goals, as well as purely cognitive
ones (Garrison, D., Anderson, G. & Archer, W., 2001). Aragon (2003) identified
a number of strategies used to establish and maintain social presence
online. After a number of Aragon’s strategies were utilized in course design,
Community Nutrition Educators (CNEs) in the Simply Good Eating Program
who participated in online nutrition course offerings were surveyed on the
‘social presence’ aspect of the course. Results indicate that CNEs found most
of the ‘social presence’ strategies used in nutrition course design ‘useful to
very useful’ for increasing their level of comfort. In the most recent course offering,
where peer mentors were involved, post course surveys administered to
students, and reflection papers completed by peer mentors suggest the use of
peer mentoring to be a valuable course component. Social presence strategies
and peer mentoring opportunities should not be underestimated when designing
courses at a distance, as they help to create a learner centered environment,
offer a level of comfort, and enhance knowledge sharing, which can all
encourage student success.
Building a Community of Learners: The Value of Social Presence and Peer Mentoring in an Online Nutrition Course.
University of Minnesota Extension.
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