I’ve been thinking lately about the relationship between instructor presence and community. I think there must be a very fine balance to achieve between “being there” and letting community happen (in other words, not squashing community by virtue of “being there” as instructors).
In a response to Felton Square’s interesting post about community, I mentioned that in a course I was recently teaching, a student said that when instructors had “gone missing” in courses, community had really developed as students had to cling together to survive the courses. I was suprised, not only by the fact that instructors (notice the plural word form there) would “go missing” in the middle of a course, but also that doing so would open up opportunities for community. The instructors left the virtual building, but the course and students went on…
Lisa Lane notes that she does not intentionly structure for comunity. She states that it either happens or it does not. She asks the question whether community is up to the students anyway. Perhaps it is. And perhaps it should be. A more natural, virtual approach to community is an appealing idea.
For me, all of this has raised some questions:
- In online courses, how do we know when we have moved from communication to community?
- Who is responsible for developing community in online courses?
- Can a strong instructor presence be an impediment to community in online courses?
- How do we balance between “being there” and “being square” (squashing community)?
- Do we need to let students know that community is at least in part up to them? If so, how do we do that?
- Do we need to prepare students to assume roles in a community? Or at least make them aware of the possibilities? How would we do that?
Tough questions to be sure, but I hope to hear some of your thoughts about how to (at least in part) answer them!