Academic Minute Podcast

Billi Bromer, Brenau University – The Importance of Social Presence in Online Instruction

Online instruction is a part of college life, but how can we make it better?

Billi Bromer, associate professor in the college of education at Brenau University, has three ideas to do so.

Dr. Billi L. Bromer, is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia. She teaches a range of undergraduate and graduate courses in Brenau’s online educator preparation program. She is an active member of the national Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) and currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Early Childhood Teacher Educator Special Interest Group within ATE. She has presented numerous papers at state, national and international educational conferences on a variety of topics related to educator preparation. She is especially interested in the importance of the social elements of online learning for students of all ages and has written on this topic for several publications.

The Importance of Social Presence in Online Instruction


Engagement is created in online instruction when social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence all exist together. Social presence in an online course is apparent when individuals engage in learning with others in an open atmosphere, including the instructor as an active participant. Social presence consists of ways for participants to perceive emotional connection to others through experiences such as sharing information about each other or using humor. It consists of a sense of concern for one another through offering tips and suggestions. Social presence is facilitated when respectful discourse occurs, even in disagreements.

Cognitive presence occurs when participants are provided continued opportunities to acquire new information and ways to apply new information to existing or previous ideas. Teaching presence is apparent when both students and the instructor engage in experiences that create new meanings. It is best attained when students are all active participants in learning with each other and with the instructor. Teaching presence exists when learning is a reciprocal and shared process.

When social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence are created in online instruction a community of inquiry can be created. A community of inquiry is evident when members of the community have a shared goal toward educational outcomes. Its success is dependent on the perception of group connectedness and a sense of belonging. The inclusion of meaningful and respectful conversations occur among all participants can encourage this.

Engagement can occur in three different but equally important ways. The students engage with each other, often accomplished within discussions or shared projects; the students engage with the instructor both collectively and individually; and both the students and the instructor engage with the course content. Online learning that is meaningful and relevant to both the students and the instructor and provided in a format that encourages social, cognitive, and teaching presence can deepen student learning and provide a successful online experience for all participants.


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