How do your online students identify with your university?

Thor the VikingI have been spending some time here lately wondering if the students in my classes (and the classes that I design of faculty) are taking the class and becoming “Thor the Viking” or just an online student? There is always much to be said in terms of retention of online students. Did they complete the course? Did they sign up for another course? Did they complete the degree? Did they show up for graduation? Did they as an alumni donate to the university? The list goes on.

Since I work at a university that is both brick and mortar and online, do our online students just feel like they are online students? Or do they feel like they are apart with an actual university? Do they identify with the minutia of being “Thor the Viking?” I believe this is an important question to ask.

*I chose not to put my current university mascot here to separate my work from my interest, i.e., I do not work at BYU Idaho.

Social presence is something that we should be thinking about here. How are our students truly “connected” in the online course? The hope is that they are vested into the content, but are they also vested with their peers and the instructor? In a MOOC I was involved with previously, Human Element: An Essential Online Course Component, it discusses that:

Effective student-centric learning design provides students with opportunities to connect socially, collaborate on group projects, and discuss course content with each other. The teacher does not need to be at the center of the course for learning to occur.

In this video, students talk about their experience of learning online in a course with social presence.

What an interesting perspectives from the students of BYU in Idaho. I wonder if they would identify themselves with the Thor the Viking?

What are some ways in which you use social media, multimedia, and other tools to enhance the social presence of you and your students within your courses? Do you feel like adding social presence activities in a course could turn your online students into Thor the Viking?

About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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4 Responses to How do your online students identify with your university?

  1. Justin says:

    This is an interesting concept. I completed a graduate certificate program online and I admit I never felt a strong connection with the university itself (note that I enjoyed the experience though). I don’t think it’s the university’s fault. I’ve never even been to the state where my school is located so I don’t have any physical connection to the school that might have helped me connect with the university. Perhaps if I were in a longer program I would have felt more of a connection with the school.

    • DaveHallmon says:

      Thank you so much Justin for finding this post and commenting with your experience and story. Would you share a little bit about wither or not you felt that you had a relationship with the university other than just a place where you took classes. If so, how did you share that relationship. Crude example, placing the logo on your car so people knew you were affiliated. Did you walk at graduation? Social presence in online courses is very different than when students take f2f classes. Such an interesting area of research. I would love to hear your thoughts.

  2. I really did not have a relationship with the university other than it was the place I took classes. There were only 12 semester hours required for the certificate so I didn’t spend as much time with the school as other students in a degree program would. I developed relationships with my classmates, but that didn’t last beyond the certificate program as we are located across the country and world. The relationship I had with the university was more of a business transaction. If I had earned a Masters (for example), I would have strongly considered walking at graduation and I’m sure that would have created a stronger sense of belonging/connection with the institution.

    • DaveHallmon says:

      I like how you compared it to a business transaction. Some eLearning experiences can be that way. It depends on the goals and objectives of the student and the institution. Some people experience MOOCs this way… kinda like fast food. We pull up, everything is organized on the menu, we find/order what we want, then we leave and go eat in our cars. I do this all the time as a closet MOOCer.

      Thanks again for your thoughts and sharing them here. I hope we can share more in the future.

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