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Importance of socializing in online courses

Topic 1: Starting off online creating a good social environment online

Carla, Fiona and JanieImage retrieved from Google images 24/10/13

1Importance of socializing in online courses

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13It is often mentioned that socializing is the first and most important step in creating an effective online learning environment, but, what do we mean with socialization and why is it important to create a socially rich environment?

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13The first differentiation that needs to be made is that socialization is not the goal on a learning environment; creating a social environment is. A social environment is defined as a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct meaning and confirm mutual understanding. (Garrison, 2007)

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13In this online social connection the participants are able to:

Identify themselves with the group they are in.

Communicate through trust with their partners.

Express their individuality.

Images retrieved from Google images 24/10/13One of the main reasons to pay attention to the idea of a creating a social environment in online learning is motivation. It is considered that many students feel unmotivated by the sense of isolation, which can be improved by creating a trusting learning environment, which will provide the student with a sense of affective design that will capture the learners attention, will make them comfortable and will give them encouragement to perform better.

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13Moreover, when students have a high social presence the following factors are present:

the learner is more satisfied

they perceive the instructor as more effective

achievement is improved

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13Social Orientation Activities

A. Whos on my course? What are they like?Suggestion 1: Complete my profile and add 3, 2, 1 extra questionsTutor completes profile, modelling what is expectedSS complete their profile, to become accustomed to platform and add 3,2,1Include 3 alternative type questions to reveal more personal and potentially curious information that could generate a genuine interest to communicate

1Tell us about one of your greatest achievements.

When I got my coaching certification, (Fiona)

One of my greatest achievements is when I gave up smoking, 2 years ago. This is me in Capo Verde on honeymoon, when I still smoked!(Janie)

Im not very fit, so it was a great achievement for me when I managed to get to the top of this mountain after 2.5 hours and accompanied by a painful knee injury.(Carla)


Post one of your videos which has a special memory attached to it or one of your favourite You Tube clips. Tell us why this is special or memorable to you.Click on the images to see what we have in store!This was last summer on the beach in Sanlucar, Cadiz, Spain. My husband had planned a surprise holiday and this was something I had always wanted to see.(Fiona)

I was brought up in Oman and I always feel at home when I return to this beautiful country.(Janie)Image from Youtube video OmanAir retreived 24/10/133If you worked in a zoo, which animal would you like to look after and why?

Without a doubt, these amazing creatures, they are so intellligent and approachable and Id love to swim with them in the water (Fiona)

A giraffe of course!. They are graceful and unique. Did you know they had black-blue tongues!!!(Janie)

Id love to look after the pandas, they are just the most adorable creatures ever and I have been fortunate enough to see one in Shanghai(Carla).

Images retrieved from Google images 24/10/1312Suggestion 2: Using Glogster

And this is what you are doing right now!B. How will we interact? Are we in this together?

"Photo taken from by @CintiaStella used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license,"Suggestion 3: operating quickmail

"Photo taken from by @mrsdkrebsQuickmail instructionsEach student is given a list by the tutor and has to contact the person below them via email and comment on something that they found interesting from their partners profile + (3,2,1, etc.)They should remember to follow up any mail they receive (this ensures everyone sends and receives mail)

N.B. The activity is dependant on participants following each others activity before they can complete the task.

Suggestion 4: Theme thread on a discussion forum

"Photo taken from by @purple_stephThe Top 5The Top 5 task instructionsThe students receive a model from the tutor of their top 5 things (places, things, people, events etc.)

Students post their own Top 5 on a new entry in corresponding discussion forum and make sure they reply to at least one other entry from one of the other participants.

The tutor provides a summary to round off the activity, although the content could easily be followed on by a number of activities, quiz etc.The Top 5

Can you match a picture to our own discussion threads without peeping!(a few have 2 owners)

Images retrieved from Google images 24/10/13Discussion forum follow on ideas:Use information to make a quiz in week 2(Can be made more fun doing it as memory game, how many times do they need to refer back to originals.? Note: if students posted a picture with their thread, these pictures could later be tested can the students remember specific related information?)Content used as per suggestion 3 using quickmailImportant: tutor should respond quickly to each thread, showing presence and interest and to encourage the same kind of supportive behaviour from other students.

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13C. How do I know I can trust the instructor and other students?

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13Suggestion 5:Task-based research and reflection


Images retrieved from Google images 24/10/13

Suggestion 5:Task-based research and reflection: stagesTutor sets task with clear instructions for complete process and sources for research stageStudent collects necessary information, reflects and makes a written contribution to the pre-established wiki forum, taking care not to post ideas that have already been coveredThe group provides a single document using colour codes for each studentTutor provides a summary in one of a variety of ways: listing main points, quoting key ideas from students (including all of them), diagram, etc.

Note: as students have to read each others work to complete the task they observe how all their ideas collate to a single working document. By providing a comprehensive summary, the tutor provides invaluable listening skills, support, a framework and signals the completion of the taskSuggestion 6:Jigsaw task

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13

1. Tutor sets staged task to working groups with clear instructions for how to complete the process, to whom they need to send their contribution, deadlines for completion of different stages and sources for research stage.1

22. Each Student researches a part of a thread and each working group has a specific area to work on within a common group thread (note: useful for doing summary work on a finished unit or area of study)

3. Each student sends their contribution to the allocated student in their group. By the established deadline all students should receive all the contributions from their working team.Students then post a summary of the groups ideas to the assigned discussion forum3

44. Tutor provides a summary in one of a variety of ways: listing main points, chronological posting of contributions, quoting key ideas from students (or not-) including all of them, diagram, etc.The role of the tutor in online socialisingWe are going to consider the role of the tutor in online socialising under the following areas:

Orientation time for planning and planning for time

Modelling behaviour and netiquette

Presence - interest and interaction

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13OrientationA new course participant (CPs) might find themselves nervously asking.....

Who is on the course?As a tutors we can address these What are they like? concerns before they arise......... How will we interact?How do I know I can trust them?Will we work together?(Wilcoxon 2011)

By planning tasks that allow CPs time to get to know each other, the virtual learning environment and the technology.

As illustrated, there are a great many tasks and tools available to use for socialising purposes. As the tutor, we can select socialising tasks and tools that mirror or might be used during the course or as a platform for course work. This would allow the course participants an opportunity to meaningfully try out new media or programmes. This period of orientation is fundamental as it allows CPs to get to grips with the basics before they have to produce any course work but, as we have explored, it is also key to establishing and building the community. As the tutor, making sure you plan for, include and allow time for orientation and socialising tasks is your first job.

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13But.........before your CPs gain access to the VLE and start their socialising tasks make sure they can see how it is done.Modelling: tutors need to provide CPs with clear expectations of behaviour and guidance on how to complete tasks.

Netiquette: negotiate the rules of the community and how participants are expected to communicate with each other. Encourage CPs to be responsible for the mood of the VLE from the word go. As the tutor, provide a model of how to communicate. Ensure you conduct yourself in the way you expect the participants to behave.

Tasks: be sure to complete socialising tasks yourself. Not only does it provide a model for the CPs but it highlights how you are willing to be part of the community. It allows the CPs to get to know you but also highlights the ability to be selective about what personal information we release. Kevin Wilcoxon describes privacy and trust as having a symbiotic relationship.Students rank instructor modeling as the most important element in building online community (Vesely et. al., 2007). (Wilcoxon 2011)

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13Wilcoxon, K. Building An Online Learning Community Learning Solutions Magazine 03/10/2011 privacy builds trust, and trust eases privacy concerns. Privacy means we have the power to reveal information about ourselves selectively and to negotiate social relationships in a manner we feel comfortable with. Trust involves the choice to expose oneself to risk before others, in the expectation that they will not disappoint your expectation.(Wilcoxon: 2011)

By completing the tasks, e.g. Top Five, you, the tutor, are demonstrating willingness to trust the course participants

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13

Wilcoxon, K. Building An Online Learning Community Learning Solutions Magazine 03/10/2011But then what....?Your CPs are going through the first few tasks, getting to know each other...

As the tutor you are establishing your presence. CPs want and need to see you, to know that you are interested, reading what they contribute and that they are doing things right.You are interacting, creating/ maintaining dialogueYou are satisfying that basic need of security and belonging (Wilcoxon 2011) and the objective is to encourage CPs to feel safe enough to express their thoughts and ideas.

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13Wilcoxon, K. Building An Online Learning Community Learning Solutions Magazine 03/10/2011Despite the tendency to shut ourselves away and sit in Rodinesque isolation when we have to learn, learning is a remarkably social process. Social groups provide the resources for their members to learn (Brown, Duguid, 2000, p.137).

Image retrieved from Google images 24/10/13