Something that stifles social presence is the potential for negative reactions from others in the course. I have conducted extensive research on cyberbullying in the post-secondary sector and I have seen many manifestations of negative online conduct that can impact the learning environment. To address that in f2f courses, I have added a note in my syllabi that reads:
Bullying and harassment: Various forms of bullying and harassment are prohibited under ___ (institution name)’s ____ (policy name and number). As members of the academic community, it is expected that you will adhere to these norms of conduct and treat each other and me with civility and respect.
I believe a worthwhile learning activity for online courses is to really drive this point home. Because others in the course will be more anonymous than in a f2f setting, the potential is possibly greater for this type of misconduct (and the research literature around cyberbullying in post-secondary online settings certainly bears this out).
For example, in my introductory video, I could discuss the research I have done on this topic and why I find it important for students to be mindful of the issue. I could point students toward some online resources with pointers about how to think about what they are posting in the course:
Also, I would point out that harassing and discriminatory messages are covered under TRU policies such as:
Responsible Use of Information Technology Facilities and Services:
Respectful Workplace and Harassment Prevention:
Finally, I think the follow-up of this learning activity is to make sure that all posts do conform to these norms and to address it when they do not.