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An Online Composition Course
Pre-Ops/Unit Cohesion

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Rena M. Palloff and Keith Pratt (2005), authors and practitioners in the field of online education, suggested that instructors should create more than just opportunities for students and teachers to interact on an individual basis. They recommended that instructors create courses designed for collaboration. Although these practitioners do not provide a definition of the term, they do suggest several benefits of collaboration based on the practitioner literature: online collaboration encourages students to think more deeply, both elaboratively and critically. The authors also noted that online collaboration may lead students to create shared learning goals, address different learning tendencies, and accommodate cultural differences. Developing a better understanding from these benefits, one might suggest that collaboration may be defined as a form of interaction in which participants, voluntarily or by mandate, engage in group activities to construct knowledge.

Palloff and Pratt (2005) suggested that collaboration among the participants in an online course may enable the students to recognize participants (other students and the instructor) as real people and not merely words on a screen. This perception of connectedness, awareness of others, and/or a sense of intellectual community that participants experience in an online course through various forms of interaction and collaboration is referred to as social presence. Charlotte Gunawardena and Frank Zittle (1997), foundational researchers in social presence literature, credited social presence for student satisfaction in many distance education courses. These authors suggested that this sense of social presence, the connectedness that allows participants to experience satisfaction with a course and feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves, may be an important concept in research to develop empirically grounded approaches to distance education course design.

An Online Composition Course Pre-Ops/Unit Cohesion – 3