By Dr Sinead Eccles, #Openteach Facilitator, Psychology online tutor-DCU Connected
Maintaining Social Presence and managing big crowds
As one of the Units in the #Openteach course was Social Presence, we as course facilitators knew that we would have to maintain our Social Presence whilst managing a big crowd of 400+.
Forums are designed to encourage discussions and engagement with others and therefore, rely on effective social presence of all users. The #Openteach course forums contained a sea of activity and engagement during the 2 weeks the course was running. This was evident from our introductions and icebreakers forum to the finale where we discussed Aine’s dilemma. The posts in all of these forums were the best possible examples of forum engagement that I have seen in my years as an online educator.
The detail and the speed of the posting made it challenging to keep up with the posts and the #Openteach team wanted to ensure that everyone had a reply.
And this is where the wonder of video replies showed it’s worth and this seemed to quicken up responses. No rehearsals and no script just ‘live’ responses to the posts with more of a personal touch (well I thought so).
As I was reading the posts I would get engrossed reading the ideas of the participants posting. It was really difficult not to think about how I could personally incorporate those ideas into my teaching, but I suppose that was the whole point of the course. The experience of everyone on these forums came across and the support of others was something that came out in bucket loads.
The aim of finale Unit 4 of the #Openteach course was to provide ideas and material around supporting students and using Discussion Forums.
Participants were reminded of the following:
As we have seen from Áine’s dilemma, managing discussion forums within an online course can be very demanding. In order to mitigate against the problems that Áine faced it is very important to establish the netiquette for your course from the start, and to have clear guidelines for engagement.
Establishing netiquette through having clear guidelines, sometimes called ground rules, that students sign up to, is very important.
Within the unit participants were presented with the 15 rules of Netiquette that Touro College are using. A reminder to them of netiquette before they began to post about ‘Aine’ and her forum dilemma. Good food for thought when they take their newly developed skills to their own forums and also useful for them to develop their own rules for their students.
So at this point in the #Openteach course the participants were armed with lots of knowledge and experience with forums. With all this forum experience and knowledge in their toolbelt they had to review the details of Aine’s dilemma and they could either complete:
- A group activity role play: Work in a group of four to enact a role play
- An individual activity: Discussion forum: Post to the forum on why you selected your choice
Naturally when a new course begins activity can reach its peak and reduce over the running of the course. This was not the case in the #Openteach course!! Even after 2 weeks of the course running the forum for the activity ‘Aine’s dilemma’ received a staggering 300+ posts.
As the facilitators were busy replying by video and text the true nature of the engagement came from the participants and how they replied to each other.
This is when the participants really became facilitators.
For me this was the most impressive part of the course. The time everyone took to post and reply truly showed how they were engaged in improving their own skills and sharing their knowledge with others.
You will see some of the participant responses in the word cloud at the beginning of the blog post. Below you will find examples of some of the posts that were sent as replies to others. My favourite reply is ‘I’m Smiling here’. it says it all and shows the interaction that we all had over the few weeks the course was running.
Thank you to everyone that participated in the #Openteach course. Until we meet online again stay safe and well.