Building Presence with High-Impact Online Introduction Activities

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Based on 5 Goals of Introduction Activities in Education, experience, evaluate, and create course-specific introduction activities for use online. Participants take away a process, an Introduction Activity Assessment tool to evaluate course introduction activities, a draft of an activity; and access to a repository of resources.


Dr. Stacy Greathouse is an instructor and Senior Instructional Designer at Texas Woman’s University. Her definition of success is to hear or say at least once a day, “I never thought about it that way!”
Sheryl Narahara Hathaway, PhD, is the Director, Instructional Technology Support Services, at California State University, Long Beach. Sheryl regularly consults with faculty, staff, administrators & students to find the best strategic blend of instructional technologies and methods to create dynamic and effective learning environments. She has presented her research nationally and internationally, as well as, published in the areas of performance improvement, educational technology and learning & development. In 2014, her presentation "Challenges and Best Practices in Support of Blended, Hybrid, Online and Technology-Enhanced Learning" was awarded the Online Learning Consortium's Best-in-Track for Institutional Leadership and Strategy. Her team recently was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Faculty Development for Online Teaching for their Faculty Instructional Innovation Studio. Sheryl holds a B.S. in Community & Regional Development (University of California, Davis), a Masters in Education (San Francisco State University) and a PhD in Instructional Systems Technology (Indiana University.) Her professional interests are emerging technologies, media design, active and open learning. Her personal interests include oral history and folklore. She is the past Chair of the Instructional Design & Faculty Support (IDFS) Learning Community, whose UC system-wide membership addresses issues concerning the design | re-design of course content for multi-modal (digitally-infused | blended | online) delivery, as well as the challenges and methods of "best practice" faculty support.

Extended Abstract

This practical workshop models, explains, and practices strategies to build and evaluate online course introduction activities based on 5 goals. These goals have emerged at an intersection of Activity Theory, Community of Inquiry, and principles and practices of good teaching. The focus on introductions uses a key practical course component with the potential to establish classroom culture through student engagement. In this bring your own device workshop, participants take away a process, an Introduction Activity Assessment tool to evaluate course intro activities, a draft of an introduction activity, and digital access to resources.

Introduction to the session: "High-Impact Introduction Activities" (new window)

Workshop objectives:

  • Explore the 5 Goals of High-Impact Introduction Activities as an educational tool
  • Analyze strengths and opportunities of example introduction activities
  • Create an introduction activity for a specific course
  • Evaluate technology for its usefulness with introduction activities

These are the 5 goals that our process and assessment tool addresses for online high impact introduction activities:

  1. Access Course Buy-In
  2. Establish rapport and tone
  3. Model integrity and quality
  4. Set the stakes
  5. Use relevant technology

As attendees enjoy simulations, playing with technology, and solving puzzles, we uncover the educational value of instructors’ and learners’ everyday experiences with introductions. Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) define such activities as those that reflect the “ordinary practices of the culture” (p. 34). Ordinary often invokes the idea of “normal,” and interrupting normalization capitalizes on disrupting comfort zones, as bell hooks encourages in Teaching to Transgress (1994). With the 5 goals, we storyboard icebreakers and simultaneously address 4 of the 7 principles of successful faculty in undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). While crafting them, we not only encourage contact between students and faculty with active learning, but also “communicate high expectations” and “respect diverse talents and ways of learning” (p. 3).

Transforming the ordinary into an overt educational experience builds a Community of Inquiry [COI] (Swan, Garrison & Richardson, 2009). The Introduction Activity Assessment tool helps produce products to address the three components of the COI model: a cognitive presence positioning the learner in relation to the subject with low-stakes pre-assessment; a social presence that puts learners in communion with one another; and a teaching presence that makes the experience transparent, facilitates collaboration, and provides direct instruction.

High-context interactions reinforce a practical use of Activity Theory geared to introduction activities. Engestrom (2005) embraces schools as activity systems, relying on the presence and interactions between individuals. When positioned next to ordinary practices of culture, Lektorsky (2009) explain individuals cannot have or maintain activity norms alone; instead, they are shared by others who participate in the same activity (Lektorsky, 2009). By the time we're done, we'll have seized the chance to make introductions as a cultural activity norm into an exchange with foceducational value.