What Is The Value Of Social Presence In Online Learning

Commentary – In a digital world, how important is it to get your brand (and students’ perception of you) online? What do you think is a value of “social presence”?

Social media and digital platforms have been employed by many education programs in a manner that, as a practical matter, probably shouldn’t be a big deal.

I say this as an educator on faculty who teaches, online or otherwise, over the Internet. But it would be hard for me to say how valuable social media outreach is in a world where 24/7 digital conversations with other professionals are our norm and educators, particularly secondary school educators, have gotten comfortable with the use of custom-made online courses, and where it is pretty well-accepted that the best methods are the ones that adapt and automate.

While there is some extent to which I can sympathize with the characterization that when it comes to virtual learning, “things have gotten pretty much out of hand,” I also have to say that when it comes to online learning, the word value can be overused. I’m sometimes tempted to use the term “boil-over,” an apparent reference to how, in an effort to both keep up with the relentless movement online, educators have sold out when it comes to their dealings with the people they are seeking to educate, surrendering their power over how education programs are offered. As I’ve argued in many posts, there is no one “right” way to deliver education online. We should strive for the “best” way to make an impact on the world, not the “least” way.

But when I think of the value of a number of things that are available online, I am struck that I can’t think of any of them that I would value more than learning that is delivered by people, including administrators, educators, staff, students, and professors. I am particularly struck by this “lack of resource” notion. Most of the online education materials are provided by outside resources, by platforms, by organizations. If you can think of a reputable educator or school, you can likely find her, or him, on another platform or organization providing similar, or similar, content.

I am a first generation college student. And being a first generation college student (well, all my writing, anyway) is a bummer on so many levels. I learned a number of skills that helped me navigate the institutional environment and grad school, including communicating using Twitter and good communication writing. It’s an awkward experience for those who have grown up at a very different pace and don’t know how to just text, email, or Twitter at the speed the others have grown up learning.

There has been an evolution in how students are taught in both high school and community colleges, but there remains the stigma of people (especially professors) who have an automatic and automatic level of authority or authority. (No one wants to be on the receiving end of a profiled lecture from someone who’s considered “important” for an extended period of time, an attitude that extends even to professors.) Part of the reason these charges fly is because of bias. They are also built on a dangerous assumption about learning.

But people tend to assume their own expertise, particularly when it comes to something like literacy. People tend to assume they are better at teaching learning to people they don’t know well than a person who is learning from them, in the case of high school and community college students. When you ask people why they give off this perception, or that they feel they are far better teachers than other people, you hear a lot of explanations that are really missing the point. I think it’s one more indication of the “we-know-what-you-are-doing” culture in which people are learning to work in environments where the barriers between the classrooms and the office are pretty transparent.

That culture is going to continue to be around, because people want to feel they are in control.

To be clear, I have no use for truly formalized online education institutions that require registration and make people feel like they have to belong, or even think about being a part of a club or a social group. It does nothing for people who aren’t ready to step out of the fear of the unknown and accept the idea that they have something important to contribute to society. The most important thing is learning, not popularity. But I don’t think we should kid ourselves about how valuable good learning and communication really is.

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