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Social Presence in Nursing Distance Learning

Updated: Mar 14, 2020

Establishing social presence in distance learning encourages engagement that functions as the bond that holds the group together.

Contributing feelings and experiences: The educator should share their personal thoughts and professional experiences to support the learning material and enrich the dialogue. Learners must also be encouraged to share their perspectives and feelings as well, as the educator and learners work together to develop new insights and connections to the content and practice. Simply meeting minimum work requirements and deadlines is not creating a robust online experience; the learner should be supported to dive deeper and share their connections to current, past, and future experiences. In this way, all of the participants can cultivate matured associations and projections on future practice of the new material.


Sharing profiles: When participating in any collaborative venture, the members typically prefer to learn something about one another before working together, and the online learning experience is no different. The educator and the learners should take advantage of the use of self-profiles to share a little bit about their personal and professional interests, pasts, and future plans. Profiles can also be a place to talk on goals and reasons for partaking in the learning experience.


Connecting an image, photo, and avatar: We are able to associate more personally with one another when we can tie a face to a name. When creating your hello and welcome message to your group, attach a photo of yourself and perhaps an image of something meaningful to you. We, at Ignite, very much appreciate what Voki avatars can offer. These engaging speaking characters for education can be created to look how you would like to express yourself, while inputting text that is used to create a vocal response. This technology supports warm hellos, engaging direction, lecture on short, to-the-point topics, and friendly good-byes. Further review of what Voki has to offer can be engaged in here:



Presenting with pre-recorded video and using live connection: Video adds another element to distance education to establish authentic, interactive connections in real time. It can also can be used to deliver recorded lecture information that correlates with assigned readings or provides additional insight into a specific topic area, especially for asynchronous instruction. For example, the educator can use video to explain the importance of an assigned project or how to go about locating helpful resources. Videos can encourage real-time collaboration for problem-based learning. Problem-based learning in nursing education functions to develop group interactions that are centered on critical analysis of a given scenario or case, in order to mature critical thinking abilities. As the educator, video provides an effective platform to explain a scenario or case for review, while requesting that learners develop their own original thoughts in conjunction with evidence-based research findings to form collaborative responses.


Offering timely replies: This one may seem to be able to go without saying, however sometimes we all can find ourselves guilty of taking a bit too long to respond to someone’s thoughts, perspectives, or questions. Timely acknowledgement is key to creating social presence, even if the response simply shares that the comment was viewed and further thoughts on the topic will be shared soon. This practice more closely resembles in-person connections. Think: If this person were saying this to me right now in class, would I sit quietly and not respond when I heard them, or would I supply some sort of response, even if I still plan to work through the idea further and share more later?


Submitting evaluation from all involved: This one is one of our favorites! Remembering that as we are all in this together, we all learn and we all evaluate learning, is very important. Wouldn’t it be nice to not feel like the facilitator is the only one responsible for evaluating that learning is taking place as hoped and as planned? Learners should participate in guided self-reflections to examine their growth and movement towards competency. Self-reflection on direct learning experiences supports experiential learning. The educator can encourage plentiful direct learning experiences that support authentic learning and assign reflections that foster creativity through the use of technology resources for expression. The perception gained from the advanced experiential background allows for nursing practice to be fluidly driven by intuition and deeper knowing. Peer reviews support constructive assessment and help learners view the objectives through a different lens, which is instrumental for supporting growth of the peer who is being reviewed, but also for the peer reviewer themselves. In addition, peer reviews promote enhanced assessment skills, accountability, responsibility, communication, and team collaboration, which are all necessary skills to develop for the competent professional nurse. When the facilitator is engaging in learner evaluation, the use of varied methods supports a reliable and valid process for establishing an objective review of learning. Learners can also evaluate the learning experience and the facilitator’s engagement by completing reviews that integrate a mix of questions with Likert-rating scales and open-ended responses for comprehensive feedback.


Pause, Reflect, and Plan: What are my goals for establishing social presence in my distance learning environment? Is there room for improvement? If so, when, where, and how can I integrate more layers of engagement?

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