Social Presence

Social Presence

Barbara A. Frey (D. Ed. University of Pittsburgh, USA), Richard G. Fuller (Robert Morris University, USA) and Gary William Kuhne (Penn State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-865-4.ch005
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Benefits Of Social Presence

Biocca and Harms (2002) emphasize the importance of social presence because interaction through technology increasingly substitutes for face-to-face communication. In online courses, teachers and researchers find that social presence is necessary for students to advance to cognitive presence or the ability to construct meaning (Stacey, 2002). Richardson and Swan (2003) note students with high overall perceptions of social presence also score high in their perceived learning and perceived satisfaction with the instructor. Picciano (2002) reports a significant relationship among learner perceptions of interaction, social presence, and learning. Also related to learning, social presence positively impacts the depth and critical thinking demonstrated in online discussions (Maurino, 2007; Polhemus, Shih, & Swan, 2001). Whereas most studies connect social presence to learning, Wise, Chang, Duffy, and del Valle (2004) contradict most studies and find students do not feel they learn more when social presence is high. However, their study appears to be the exception rather than the rule in social learning benefits.

The support provided to students in an online course contributes to their success (Stacey, 2002), and Nunez (2005) points to social presence as contributing to student satisfaction, motivation, and retention in online programs. Without human touch, students feel as though it is just them and the computer (Weiss, 2000). Social presence literature makes “it clear that a student’s degree of presence, engagement and interaction with others in an online educational setting had a significant influence on the attrition rate and the overall outcomes of the course” (Jolivette, 2006, p. 536).

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