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Quick Tips for Teaching Online: Course Design for Enhancing Social Connectedness among Online Students (Part 2)

Aerial view of man and woman holding coffee cups on a circular café style table.
Wed, 18 Nov 2020

By Robert Dalton.

Reading Time: ~2 minutes.

Featured Image Source: Photo by Joshua Ness from Unsplash

 

Following part 1, in part 2 we now consider the question

What impact does social connectedness have on the learning experience?

If you have any queries or would like to extend the conversation in this area, please feel free to contact me directly at Robert.Dalton@ul.ie

 

This weeks post is published in 3 parts:

Part 1: How do students develop and experience social connectedness online?
Stages of Development
Some interesting points to note

Part 2: What impact does social connectedness have on the learning experience?
- The question must be asked

Part 3: How can pedagogical strategies and course design enhance social connectedness among participants in online courses?

For participants, ‘sound social spaces’ and stable patterns of communication allow them to support each other through challenging times and to offer different perspectives and motivational support. Communication spaces that often exist beyond the formal restrictions of the online learning environment support many higher-level concepts like belongingness and relatedness. They can decrease feelings of isolation and afford recognition to the motivational drivers that play a critical role in participant’s social relational growth and how it influences a participant’s levels of motivation and persistence on their programme of study.

Informal learner-to-learner interactions fostered within the formal learning environment but further developed as emotional interdependent relationships outside the “walls” of the learning management system, present positive connections attributed to the benefits of social connectedness that can be evidenced in outcome indicators like cognitive development and academic benchmarking.

SC develops cognitive thought processes through the interaction with peers who offer different insights. This is consistent with research that suggests where students are cognitively challenged they will have high levels of course satisfaction.  

Other predictors of course satisfaction like personal relevance, attractiveness and outcome expectations can be evidenced through the mutual benchmarking of objectives and quality of work in achievement of higher grades. 

A positive relationship can exist between SC and a learner’s perceived satisfaction, where the effect of peer relationships can be evidenced in the affective domains such as attitude, satisfaction and motivation to persist than in the cognitive domain of learning. However, a synergetic relationship tends to exist between the supportive and motivational affective outputs of SC and the cognitive domain of learning and the learning experience.

The question must be asked

If participants develop SC, could this have a negative effect on the development of the general learning community where superficial engagement offers very little to the “wisdom of the crowd” within such socially constructed learning environments? Participants who develop SC do not preference socially connected peers over others but instead these relationships shape engagement with the larger learning community.

This informs course design to think more systematically about how to design for and support these ‘safe social spaces’ that broaden dialogue and have a positive influence on the learning experience and greater community of inquiry.

This will be covered in part 3 of this post, How can pedagogical strategies and course design enhance social connectedness among participants in online courses?, which will be published on Friday.