Social Presence – Key to Impactful Learning Experiences
Fundamentally, learning is a social process. There’s no dispute that our social context; interactions, engagements and relationships all play a role in shaping our knowledge, skills and capability. Thus, it’s vital for learning professionals to understand the value of social presence. Social presence, simply defined, is the feeling of being part of something. It seems that this social presence is why face-to-face training is still relevant. People come to the classrooms not only to gain knowledge, but to interact, form connections and engage in social activity.
The failure to replicate this type of environment may have been the reason why traditional eLearning never became the success it was set out to be. However, technology has evolved tremendously from the days of that type of eLearning. Hence, we nowadays have the capabilities of nurturing that social presence even with digital tools. And here are some considerations to help you along the way.
Building Connections and Facilitating Interactions
To attract learners to your digital learning experiences, you need to make sure they have the same possibilities of connecting with people than in face-to-face. Facilitating learning through a social platform helps tremendously in this regard. People can build their connections, engage in discussions and share experiences. People don’t only learn through the materials or the instructor, but from each other also, which the peer-to-peer connecting opportunities facilitate.
Interactions also play an important part in learning engagement. When you are physically disconnected from other learners, it’s vital to have opportunities for interacting in different ways. Enabling people to build profiles, like, comment, share and follow – all fundamental concepts of social media – helps to nurture the social presence and keep learners engaged.
Build on experiences encouraging reflection
Naturally, all learners are individuals and thus have their own individual context – prior experience, background, exposure etc. It’s important to build on these individual experiences, which is one of the primary ways of adult learning. Reflection is of equal importance, enabling the learner to link new knowledge in to previous experiences and form the understanding required for application. Finally, even individual experiences and reflections are powerful when shared with others, as we also learn by mimicking and mirroring. Thus, enabling social presence is important and you should make it possible even across activities that may feel “individual”.
Leverage on groups for learning ownership and support
Social presence can also be an important tool for motivation. When people are actively engaged in a learning group, they are more likely to take ownership of their learning. This means that they are more likely to seek out learning opportunities based on their personal needs e.g. to better participate in discussions. Due to the collaborative nature of learning, individuals are also less likely to drop out of the activities. There’s a sense of commitment to the group and no-one wants to let their peers down!
These type of engaged communities also go a long way in internal support. Whenever someone is struggling, it’s easy to approach people for help. Furthermore, in an engaged community, people often proactively identify opportunities in helping other people. This creates a great platform for both emotional and performance support, which can reduce the L&D department’s work quite drastically.
These are a few ways of leveraging on the power of social presence in your digital learning. If you’d like to learn more or need tools for facilitating social presence in the digital era, just contact us.