South African Journal of Higher Education

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Humanising education through technology: creating social presence in large classes

F C Greyling, A Wentzel


Social presence refers to the ability of students to project themselves as ‘real people' in an online learning community. While it is difficult to create social presence in large classes, educational technologies can enhance the social dimension of online learning if educators relinquish the use of technology as an instrument of control. This article argues the importance of social presence as a building block of successful learning environments and presents some of the ways in which lecturers can purposefully create and maintain social presence. An illustrative case study is presented of a technology-assisted course with 3000 students. The narrative explains how the facilitator was able to create and use the social dimension of the course to the benefit of his students. It became clear that there was no trade-off between increased social interaction and academic participation in the course. In fact, social presence seemed to have formed a foundation for learning and teaching.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol. 21 (4) 2007: pp. 654-667
AJOL African Journals Online