I took a trip to the main office recently and met four women who I have worked with for the past 6 months, but never met in person. Two of the four hugged me when they were introduced to me. What does this mean? Were they just ‘huggers’? That person-type that just can’t help themselves but to hug everyone? Is it something about women that makes them want to hug?
I don’t think it’s any of these. I’ve met with similar exuberance from men…just without the physical contact. (I suspect in a different culture there would have been hugging involved). No. I think what I experienced was how several people – who have never met in person – can form a relationship through working and learning together at a distance.
I attended an online conference today (http://www.classroom20.com/page/2012-learning-2-0-virtual-conference) at which several staff from Pittsburgh and San Jose State Universities shared the results of a study they did which measured the impact of online learning vs. in-person instruction in an inquiry-based course. They found that in many cases the online learners who were in cohorts had a very strong sense of teaching and social presence.
But this doesn’t just happen by accident. This happens when there is a considerate and planned implementation of close collaboration. When you work with – and learn from – people, you begin to forge these relationships.
How is your distance learning program decreasing the “distance” and helping people to form relationships?