I think one of the most important concepts that has impacted my thoughts on student engagement and retention during this course is that there is no significant difference between different media when it comes to student achievement. Yet when students are asked what they prefer, they like video presentation of ideas. This reinforces the notion that we like connection to others whether in person or on-line.
Additionally, as Vaughan et al. suggest, video introductions to the course environment and short tutorials on difficult course concepts or problems really help students. Finally talking about one’s experience with the course material as an instructor and encouraging students to do so also makes a demonstrable difference in student engagement.
As a result, I plan to use a picture of me on every post I make. I will make sure to use a conversational tone, be respectful, positive and encouraging to students. Also, once I get my course, I will provide a short video introduction to it and provide short tutorials that highlight practical personal application on difficult course concepts. I also will make sure to respond in a timely fashion to questions and to contact students who haven’t posted asap to show them that I’m present. Asking students what worked and what didn’t work is another way to help increase engagement as well as to improve the course.
As for questions, at this point I haven’t taught the course so it’s tough to be more specific until I actually see how social presence plays out with my students when I’m actually teaching. I wonder if teaching graduate students makes a difference in terms of engagement in that they may have more desire to learn the material for their career?
A few strategies to help me out are to make sure I look at other’s ideas for increasing social presence ( I’ve got some links on my blog there). TRU has links to some great material from UBC and UVic too. I can also ask colleagues such as the online learning coordinator for ideas as well as my faculty mentor.