Through my reading and trying to understand the language in the COI program. I have learned that there are three levels of presence that will make the online learning experience worthwhile. There is a balance among the teacher, the student and the content itself. The perfect level of autonomy to learn content of a subject is not always present with students by itself. However, combined with the social presence, it seems to be more attractive. Middle school students love working in pairs or groups to carry out goals set out by the teacher. Here is where it gets interesting. Teachers who supply the cognitive concrete lesson with structure to the students and allow them, or better yet, encourage them to work together to dissect the information that is presented and share their own knowledge with other students will be more engaged and more likely to successfully complete the tasks they are assigned, as well as put forth effort into understanding the content which is presented by the teacher. This makes the online challenge seem less daunting and gives the students the support and sense of belonging to a group instead of being completely on their own.
The teacher is happy because the content is being accepted and analyzed by the students through their interaction with each other in discussion and creation of a product that shows the level of their understanding. Within the COI framework, students are learning in a safe and trusting environment in which they can express their views and are more likely to offer information and suggestion to their peers.
The transactional distance in cases such as the one listed above is closer and the security level of the students remains strong so the idea of “putting yourself out there” is not so scary, as it could be in a face-to-face situation such as a classroom setting.
As far as moving throughout the lessons to achieve the learning goals which are set for the students. The teaching presence is the stronghold which anchors the transitioning of the students through the lessons to acquire the desired outcome.
It is clear that the three presences, cognitive, teaching and social balance each other and a shift in any one of them will directly affect the others. For example, if the teaching presence is not precise in the expectations of what the students should accomplish, then I believe the students will do one of three things:
- Not complete anything because they will not have a structure to follow and will be afraid to move forward without guidance from the teacher;
- Move forward on what they “think” is expected and possibly follow through on something that doesn’t meet the planned goal of the lesson; or
- Constantly complete step by step and continually question the teacher or other students as to whether or not he or she is on the right track.
If the cognitive presence is lacking, then the students will have a difficult time, even with teacher presence, to understand what it is that is being asked of them.
Without the social presence, the students will feel isolated and perhaps unable to complete the lessons to meet the goals set by the teacher because there is no feed-back or discussion to help understanding of the information they are to disseminate.
With inclusion of all three presences, the student has an opportunity to be successful, close the transactional distance, and autonomy will become more apparent because of the confidence that is instilled by the presence of all three items.
My online learning experiences are limited. As I stated before, I had to send cassette tapes back and forth and communicate through snail mail. This is all a fairly new concept to me. I am no technology guru and I am excited learn more about the online communication environment which consists of the twitter, feedly, wordpress, and regular blogging experiences because I believe that these platforms offer a conceivable way to learn. It will take some serious time-management on my end to keep up.
I can completely see how a student can feel separated by transactional distance when it comes to being consistent with interacting with other students in the class on a regular basis. It takes a great deal of determination and commitment to stay abreast of new ideas and try to grasp what is being taught. Using the social presence in this online teaching class has made me feel at ease. Reading the blogs of my colleagues has allowed me the “whew, I am not the only one” feeling when I have read and re-read the blogs and articles about the different learning preferences and how they are supposed to work together. The language has been difficult for me, as I have looked up a lot of words just to understand what I am reading in some instances. It is frustrating, but I believe I have a general understanding of what makes the transactional distance become closer between students/ teachers/peers throughout the learning process. All are needed for online learning to be successful.
I hope to incorporate all three of the presences in my project to make learning for my students not only engaging and fun, but rewarding and in the end I hope they reach their learning goals.