3.3 Presence in large online classes

With online classes of greater than 20 to 30 students it is not possible for one educator to respond individually to all students. In this section we will explore ways of encouraging social presence in large online classes.



Establishing presence in large online classes

For student cohorts larger than 30 students the best advice is to have more than one educator to respond to the students online and to help manage the chat and other features during your live online classrooms. Key to success is creating groups within your class. Empower the students to create and maintain social presence within their groups.


Group responses – Randomly allocate each student with two others and ask them to respond to each other’s posts. Give them a deadline. Then, if possible, respond yourself to students who haven’t received a response yet.

Group the icebreaker – Run an icebreaker activity between groups. For example, group your class into groups of 5 to 6 students and ask them to each post an image, meme or gif that best describes how much they like this particular subject. Group members are then required to guess the particular emotion or feeling invoked

Use online polls – Use online polls to ask your students relevant questions on the course materials. Careful wording of questions should allow students select different, but valid, responses. Open up a comparison/critique of the possible answers to the students who have partaken in the poll.

Set up mentor groups – Group students into groups of 5 or 6 and ask them to become mentors for each other during the course. You may wish to allow them self-select the groups. Ask them to allocate a chair who can then come to you with queries that they are unable to answer. Suggest initial postings such as ‘when is the first assignment due? Incentivize this by allocating a percentage of their grade towards continuous participation in this forum.

Themed Forums – Set up three or four themed query forums, based on your past experience of this or other similar courses. For example, you may have one for assignments and another for referencing.  Put FAQ’s into each forum. Allow students query in here, but only respond to those that fall outside your FAQ, and then add this query/response into the FAQ. Inform students of the process and the expected response time. Stick to your guns!


In this chapter we looked at how to encourage social presence in large online classes.

You can access a downloadable copy of the material here (link opens a new window):


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

#Openteach: professional development for open online educators Copyright © 2021 by #Openteach project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book


Comments are closed.