ON DEMAND: Student Profiles as Process and Content (15 mins)
Online classes make evident the amount of effort that instructors must devote to establishing instructor-student and student-student rapport. Building a sense of community that allows students to embrace their own agency and participate fully depends on activities that ask students to acknowledge the digital identities they construct in the online space. Online environments are not inherently social, and at worst, the online classroom can seem like little more than a digital correspondence course. To bring awareness to the presence of community, I ask students to construct a personal profile on our WordPress blog. The initial profile is extremely simplistic and based upon the first iteration of the Facebook profile. Although conditions in the face-to-face classroom make social contact and a sense of community easier to accomplish, I also use this activity in my face-to-face classes by having students construct and discuss profiles displaying their self-understanding as learners, professionals, and researchers. I have used this activity for undergraduate students from all disciplines in writing-intensive, Mason Core courses, where we can discuss the rhetoric of public constructs like profiles. In other disciplines, the profiles could serve as texts for activities focused on professional development, self-concept, critical reflection, or group collaboration. For instance, a profile might be used in an introductory sociology course as an example of the relationship between and individual and broader demography, whereas an advanced course in organic chemistry might have students adapt such profiles to discuss their goal, to explore their relationship as individuals to the broader scientific community, or to connect with other students and share resources as their interests evolve.