Taking another MOOC: Human Element (in Online Courses)

Today I started working on a MOOC I am taking through the Canvas Network, “Human Element: An Essential Online Course Component.” I’m very excited about this 3-week “course” because the subject is an interest of mine. As a student now in my second online master’s degree program (MLIS from Univ. of Alabama, now M.Ed. with emphasis on online instructional design from Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks), I have personally experienced the difference in online courses that have a rich human element and those that have virtually none. It’s much easier to become and stay engaged in courses where the instructor and/or classmates have a strong social presence.

In my current graduate program, I discovered that my personal experience is not unique: Research has shown how valuable social presence is for learning. When I saw this MOOC, I signed up immediately. I look forward to further exploring the impact of human element on learning in online courses, discovering and discussing strategies for including it in course design, and connecting with a diverse group of dedicated professionals via this MOOC.

2 thoughts on “Taking another MOOC: Human Element (in Online Courses)

  1. Hi D’Arcy,
    You seem pretty adept already at using social presence in the classroom. I asked this on Twitter as well, but just curious…do you use personal Twitter accounts, blogs etc. with students? I have an MPH program twitter account, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to use that in a class. Don’t know how I feel about my personal twitter account with students. Thoughts?

    • Hi there, Carly!

      Actually, I have never taught online. However, I’ve completed a graduate program online, I’m working on my second, and I’ve taken a couple of MOOCs with excellent instructor presence (including a social media MOOC). That has provided me dozens of case studies to observe and learn from. I’ve also read a fair amount on the topics of using social media in the classroom and the importance of social presence in online classes.

      To answer your question, my opinion is that it’s perfectly fine to use your “personal” Twitter account, blogs, etc. for interactions with students as long as your personal accounts are more professional in nature (such as you see in this blog and in my Twitter). I infuse some personality here and there (such as my retweets of Fake Library Stats and my zombie MOOC post) but mostly my content it professional. At the very least, it is material that I’m fine with my employers, colleagues, and students to see. Especially at the college level, I believe it’s fine and healthy for students to see you as a real person with a personality, hobbies, a sense of humor, and a life outside of teaching. In fact, those are the things that really help students feel connected to you, to feel your social presence.

      I hope this class will reveal some of this for you. I’d love for you to comment again in a few weeks to know if your hesitations have subsided.

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