Does “personal” matter?

Information sharing in an academic setting does not have to be personal, but is it important to have something personal somewhere? In face-to-face classrooms, personal sharing is common between student and teacher. Things leak out. In the online environment, is there room for the personal? Teachers typically present a bio or background note at the beginning, but does there need to be room for a greater personal presence?

The Social Presence in the Community of Inquiry framework does not directly suggest teacher/student interaction. The social presence considers the social role of the student. But I suggest that the social presence of the instructor may be uniquely important for student engagement. I am looking through the art school lens, which offers a special circumstance. Most art instructors are artists and provide a necessary insight into the profession. Social sharing is an informal way of sharing professional practice.

Personal information sharing in an academic setting gives students insight into how one works in a nebulous field. It can also be a way of encouraging students to improve those skills they otherwise neglect, such as writing and research. Too many online classes are designed to be cookie cutter in nature, which is a way to guarantee quality across many sections, but cuts down on personal connection. Personal information sharing could be built into a classroom by giving instructors more places and ways of connecting.

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