Social Presence in Online Dissertation Classes

Social Presence in Online Dissertation Classes

Libi Shen (University of Phoenix, USA) and Irene Linlin Chen (University of Houston Downtown, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5472-1.ch078
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This chapter reports on the results of a study that explored doctoral learners' perceptions of social presence in online dissertation courses. Seven doctoral graduates were interviewed to understand how social presence functions in online dissertation courses, whether social presence influences their dissertation completion, and how technological tools help improve social presence in the dissertation courses. The results of this study indicate that social presence plays an important role in online dissertation courses. Students' course satisfaction and learning outcome were associated with the degree of social presence. The use of emoticons, emails, and phone calls in online dissertation courses increased students' sense of social presence. Students were more satisfied with instructors who interacted with them frequently and who provided detailed and constructive feedback in a timely manner. Recommendations for further research are included.
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Review Of Literature

Over the past three decades, many researchers have devoted efforts to investigating social presence. Some researchers focused on the theories and definitions of social presence (e.g., Biocca, Burgoon, Harms, & Stoner, 2001; Garrison, 2007; Kehrwald, 2007; Lowenthal, 2009; Short et al., 1976; Tu, 2000a, 2000b; Tu, McIsaac, Sujo-Montes, & Armfield, 2012; Wei, Chen, & Kinshuk, 2012). Others examined the relationships between students’ perceived social presence and learning outcomes as well as online course satisfaction (e.g., Akyol & Garrison, 2008; Bozkaya, 2008; Bozkaya & Aydin, 2007; Caspi & Blau, 2008; Cobb, 2009; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Hassanein, Head, & Ju, 2009; Hostetter & Monique, 2006; Jolivette, 2006; Ko, 2012; Lee, Mykota, & Duncan, 2007; Leong, 2011; Reio & Crim, 2006; Richardson & Swan, 2003; So, 2008; Swan & Shih, 2005; Tu, 2001, 2002b, 2002c; Tu & McIsaac, 2002; Tu, Yen, Blocher, & Chan, 2012; Tung & Deng, 2007; Wise, Chang, Duffy, & Del Valle, 2004). While some researchers have developed instruments to measure social presence (e.g., Biocca, et al., 2001; Cobb, 2009; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Kreijns, Kirschner, Jochems, & Buuren, 2011; Richard & Swan, 2003; Short et al., 1976; Swan & Shih, 2005; Tu, 2002a), others have created activities and strategies for establishing social presence within online communities (e.g., Aragon, 2003; Lowenthal, 2009; Shore, 2007; Tu, McIsaac, Sujo-Montes, & Armfield, 2012).

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