Assessment strategies can create social presence in virtual exchanges

Carthy, Una (2021) Assessment strategies can create social presence in virtual exchanges.


Empirical studies have emphasised the role that social presence plays in creating effective online teaching environments. Indeed, some scholars have established a direct correlation between learner satisfaction and the level of social presence on the virtual platform (Kear, 2010). But how can educators simulate this supportive online environment? A recent virtual exchange between three European colleges in Spain, Germany and Ireland sought to create social presence in a virtual exchange environment during the Covid 19 pandemic. A unique learning pathway was created for three separate cohorts of students from all three institutions in Malaga, Bremerhafen and Letterkenny, spanning six weeks during Europe’s second lockdown. At least one of the cohorts had had their immersive Erasmus sojourn curtailed due to Covid 19 and were anxious to replicate this experience in the virtual context. Given the prevailing climate of restricted mobility and social distance, it was felt that social presence would be a pivotal element of this online learning environment. In order to ensure that students’ interaction with their transnational peers, the assessment strategy rewarded students for engaging in collaborative learning tasks. The learning outcomes provided the signposts for the learning pathway and credits were awarded for each task. Students were encouraged to use both synchronous and asynchronous tools to establish connections with their geographically distanced partners. The assessment strategy provided the scaffolding for the desired learning experience.

Kear, K. (2010, May). Social presence in online learning communities. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning 2010, Aalborg, Denmark.

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