Great post Cherie. Social interaction, or relationship/community are the key, as you suggest. In a classroom/school, I can think of a multitude of ways to build this in. However, in an online ‘class’ I think you have tackled a much more difficult (and seldom looked at) challenge. Perhaps even two years ago you might have seen opinions that suggested that social networks would be the answer — that they supported diverse viewpoints, brought people together, and created virtual communities for support and growth. Lately though, we seem to be awash in the opposite view — that these networks actually segregate and isolate people into homogeneous communities.
What is the answer? I have great hope that writers/thinkers like yourself will solve this problem and (I think) help realize the full potential of technology and the internet to make the best possible learning available to every human on the planet.
I am not an expert in this area, and so I humbly submit what comes to mind based on my own experience and practice. Presence is what humanizes interaction and discussion. Presence is what allows for empathy, compassion, support, and it is also critical for reasonable discussion, disagreement, and dissent. And by presence, I mean interactions that are more than just read and reply. Presence represents active listening and emotional availability and vulnerability. Presence means communication with goal of and the potential for relationship building. Social networks and online courses have created connections without presence, and until there is a way to build this in to the experience, I don’t think we are likely to see an improvement in engagement or effectiveness.
What would/does virtual presence look like? How will it be made manifest? Well, I kind of thought you might tell me….. :)
I look forward to reading more of your thinking.