Cognitive, teaching and social presence with my students


To be transparent, blogging is a new activity for me! I am very intrigued by the Community of Inquiry framework, as it makes intuitive sense to me. I went to the site and pulled the definitions again as my launch point to consider how I currently utilize and can incorporate each type of presence into my online classroom.

Social presence is “the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities.” (Garrison, 2009). I think this is most challenging in my fully online, asynchronous course. The challenge extends past creating my own social presence, but also facilitating that among the students. As many are local and in courses together, they may have established relationships, but not necessarily within the course. I did a bio and introduction, including some personal information. I am not the coordinator of this course, so am not the primary driver of our approach. Having said that, my colleague, for whom this is her first online course, is definitely open and willing to learn and collaborate. I try to add humor as well.

For future courses, I would enhance social presence via a more robust introduction at the beginning of the course, using VoiceThread. In addition, I will plan at least 3 synchronous online experiences in addition to the course orientation. To be honest, I think we missed some opportunities for social engagement. I have definite opportunity to improve setting the climate.

Teaching Presence  is the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). For this, I try to make activities of the student focused at the application or higher level per Bloom’s taxonomy for the modules for which I am responsible. I have encouraged my colleague to do the same. I use various examples to simulate how this content (research, not usually their favorite) will be pertinent to their future practice. I also try to provide clear directions to regulate learning and rubrics for activities and assignments, which require both individual effort and group interaction. We created small groups to better facilitate useful learning. We provide blueprints to guide preparation for exams.

Cognitive Presence is the extent to which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and discourse (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001). I think this may be most difficult in my research course. I am most successful at this in staying in close contact during discussions, prodding them to take their original postings to the next level with probing questions, which I may direct at the “original poster” , the respondents, or both. By designing discussions so that students have to post their own responses before seeing or responding to their peers demands their individual effort. This supports discourse, and helps to regulate learning.

I am taking notes to improve the remainder of the semester as well as next year!

5 Replies to “Cognitive, teaching and social presence with my students”

  1. That is interesting that you use small groups in an online course. How does that work out? My fully online course is small, actually both are small, but I haven’t figured out a way to do this yet. In my classroom based course I would have them work together on a case study and present it orally to the class, but I’m not sure how that work out online. Something to think about!

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      There is actually some really easy functionality within Canvas. Within your course, select People from the left hand menu. Everyone in your course is listed. Select Group Set in the upper right hand corner. The dialog box that appears let’s you name the group, select the number of students per group and number of groups, and allow self select (or not). If not, you can manually divide them yourself or Canvas will randomly assign them. Then for discussion and other activities, you can set them up so that a written discussion is for the entire course, or within the smaller groups. We are also going to shake those groups up a bit and switch them around after spring break, forcing them to engage with an at least somewhat different small group of peers.


      1. This is a great feature thanks for sharing. One of my main challenges in moving to an online format is also group works since so much of my classroom based course is group work. Ill check that options on canvas as well.

  2. I am with you in wanting to “enhance social presence via a more robust introduction at the beginning of the course, using VoiceThread.” I’d like to do the same for my course. I like that you have done a bio and intro with some personal information, and wonder about having students do the same.

  3. Stephanie inspired me to create a Voice Thread Intro that I modeled after hers. It took two attempts in two different modules, but I managed to do it! But the bad news is I don’t think you all could easily find it. ;-( I think it appears in Canvas after Stephanie’s intro. It was my attempt to enhance my social presence.

    And, for what it is worth, I definitely prefer VoiceThread over Panapto, which is what some people have recommended.

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