As part of unit 3 student-led seminar we have been given the opportunity to take part in a debate around the merits and limitations of Social Presence.
The subject of our debate was ‘have we been debating and challenging one another’s ideas or have we been held back by social ‘niceness’? An excellent question and whatever everyone’s individual opinion is, it’s definitely been valuable for me to have been placed in group 2 who are arguing the viewpoint that Social Presence in online communities only plays a superficial part in learning and creating communities of inquiry. The reason it’s been valuable is because this isn’t actually my current, and instinctive, opinion on this subject!
More specifically the value and learning opportunity of this exercise for me has come from the ‘safety net’ provided by the ‘cloak’ of debating rules, providing an opportunity to practice challenging other people’s opinions in a safe environment. The ‘safety net’ includes the fact that I’m not challenging individual or group opinion, but simply the other side of an argument. It has taken away the personal attack threat and given me a sense of freedom in the words I can use in my posts.
My short post today (we are allowed no more than 300 words and actively encouraged to have less) was:
“In brief reply to Laurence’s question ‘better to have no social presence than deceptive social interaction?’ I’d reply yes – for sure!
Also, to expand on Susana’s suggestion that it may be more difficult to lie about knowledge and understanding in technological subjects as opposed to social orientated subjects, to ensure consistency of the online learner experience across all subject areas, maybe we should simply cut any attempts at Social Presence from all online courses – especially if not all attempts are successful.”
Now this may not appear a particularly opinionated post, but it is brief, to the point and quite a strong ‘opinion’ – quite a liberating experience for me. I was able to put forward an argument in an unemotional way, mostly because even if it encourages counter-debate, it won’t be a counter-attack on me personally.
I consider that this exercise is helping me move towards increased academic thinking and attitude, and addressing one of my personal objectives for the BOE PGcert:
- To become more academically competent and literate.
Also one of my objectives from unit 3:
- to engage more efficiently (and effectively) in the suggested reading, and practising reviewing the literature more clearly into my learning
I’ll let you know how the debate continues and if anything further is revealed.