Social Presence is a term used to describe the feeling of interpersonal connection in online asynchronous environments. This collection of sources introduces the theoretical underpinnings of this theory, discusses the effects of social presence in a variety of learning environments, and suggests practical methods for increasing social presence in online classrooms.
Composed by Camila Alvarez
Short Introduction to Social Presence by Alexandra Pickett the Associate Director of the SUNY Learning Network.
Discussion of Social Presence Theory by West Virginia University Department of Communication Studies. Research Associate, Media and Interaction Lab.
Robyn Schell of Simon Fraser University Presents at Instructure Con 2013 about Creating Social Presence in an Online Class.
Michelle Pacansky-Brock Is an Associate Faculty at Mt. San Jacinto College and Academic Technologist at California State University's Channel Islands. She Discusses Online Learning and Social Presence Directed at Instructors.
Daphne Koller from Stanford University Presents at a TED Conference a Larger Look at Online World Wide Education and It's Impact on Learning Including Social Collaboration Starting at 12:18 after a Discussion of Peer Grading.
I am both a student in the Text and Technology Program at University of Central Florida and a Professor of English at Indian River State College. My interests include pedagogy/andragogy, new media/electracy, Feminism, environmentalism, creating social learning communities, and a wide variety of anything else that catches my interest.
Allmendinger, Katrin. “Social Presence in Synchronous Virtual Learning Situations: The Role of Nonverbal Signals Displayed by Avatars.” Educational Psychology Review. Mar2010, Vol. 22 Issue 1, 41-56. Teacher Reference Center. Academic Search Complete. Web. 18 February 2014.
Suggesting that social factors hold great influence over successful online instruction, Allmendinger reviews a series of studies of avatars and collaborative virtual environments (CVEs). CVEs are a simple and adaptive technology useful in creating social presence through avatars and non-verbal cues affecting social presence and thus motivating learning in online environments.
Dow, Mirah J. “Implications of Social Presence for Online Learning: A Case Study of MLS Students.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 49 no. 4 231-42 Fall 2008. Teacher Reference Center. Academic Search Complete. Web. 18 February 2014.
Dow presents case studies of graduate students suggesting that the feeling of social presence is impacted by a variety of factors: effective communication, structured interactions, simplicity, and transparency. The study promotes a mixture of online and person to person interaction as ideal. A good source for blended classroom and flipped classroom proponents.
Harden, R.M. “E-learning and all that jazz.” Medical Teacher. May2003, Vol. 25 Issue 3, 339. Teacher Reference Center. Academic Search Complete. Web. 18 February 2014.
Harden presents a discussion that problematizes the use of technology in education, suggesting that excessive technology is a hindrance to learning especially if it diminishes social presence. This is a possible counterpoint to the other articles in that it focuses on the difficulties associated with increase in technology and decrease in social presence.
Joyce, Kristopher M. M.A., M.S. and Abbie Brown, Ph.D. “Enhancing Social Presence in Online Learning: Mediation Strategies Applied to Social Networking Tools.” West GA U. Web. 18 February 2014. <http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/winter124/joyce124.html>
These authors review literature on social presence, present a discussion of mediation strategies and social networking, include specific examples of instruction, and include suggestions for the creation of social presence by focusing on the uses of various technology to create a sense of community: discussion posts are suggested as wasys to create asynchronos long-term conversations, instructors are encouraged to quickly respond to emails and discussion forums, live chat is promoted as creating a greater sense of salience, personalized emails where the professor follows up with asking if everything is ok, using audio or video in liu of solely text based comments, providing regular updates and feedback, using group discussions, and finally, by creating a student only area where professors do not "enter" allows students to interact with each other in terms outside of the class content. The authors provide specific rationals for the creation of social presence with each suggestion.
Kehrwalda, Benjamin. “Understanding Social Presence in Text-based Online Learning Environments.” Volume 29, Issue 1, 2008 Distance Education. 89-106. 09 May 2008. Web. 18 February 2014.
Kehrwalda creates a definition for social presence as critical for online learning which emphasizes agency, explains the nature of social presence, and suggests ways to create and sustain social presence. Discussing social presence as performative, Kehrwalda discusses the visible activity that creates the interpersonal feeling in online classes, and how they are interpreted. This is a good article to start with in order to gain a basic understanding of the impacts of social presence and the ways to create it.
Lehman, Rosemary M. and Simone C. O. Conceição. “Creating a Sense of Presence in Online Teaching: How to "Be There" for Distance Learners.” San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010. Print.
Lehman and Conceição focus on the need for social presence in an online classroom. They explore both student and instructor perspectives including social, psychological, and emotional. By focusing on examples, experience, and research, the book contains activities that help create and maintain social presence throughout an online course. A useful source for teachers that would like to create more of a community feeling in their online classrooms.
Richardson, Jennifer C., Ph.D. and Karen Swan, Ph.D “Examining Social Presence in Online Courses in Relation to Students' Percieved Learning and Satisfaction.” Volume, Issue - Date: Volume 7, Issue 1 - February 2003. Sloan Consortium. Web. 18 February 2014. <http://sloanconsortium.org/jaln/v7n1/examining-social-presence-online-courses-relation-students039-percieved-learning-and-satis>
Richardson and Swan review research indicating the impact of social presence not only as an indicator for student outcomes but also for instructor satisfaction. High perceptions of social presence correlated with high perceptions of learning and satisfaction with the instruction and instructor. This article may be useful in expanding the understanding of the impact of social presence as not just an indicator of student connection but also of instructor satisfaction.
Smith, Robin M. Conquering the Content: A Step-by-Step Guide to Online Course Design. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008. Print.
Smith provides guidelines for online instructors including sample files and practical templates. The author discusses theories for teaching in online environments and a basic how to for creating online educational environments through a focus on content. An excellent source for an online teacher who wants to try out different assignments in a classroom.
Swan, Karen and Li Fang Shih. “On the Nature and Development of Social Presence in Online Course Discussions.” Volume, Issue - Date: Volume 9, Issue 3 - October 2005. Sloan Consortium. Web. 18 February 2014.
Swan and Fang explore social presence and its development in online classrooms. Significant correlations were found between satisfaction and perceived social presence. Interestingly the study separated how the perceived social presence of instructors and other students impacted the satisfaction of learners suggesting a stronger influence for the perceived social presence of the instructor. Course design was also found to impact the development of social presence. Per student, the higher the perceived social presence the greater the participation in online discussions. A good article for understanding the possible connections between course design, interaction, and teacher influence.
Warnock, Scott. Teaching Writing Online: How & Why. Urbana: NCTE. 2009. Print.
Warnock extends the discussion of good teaching strategies and focuses on the teacher and how to translate f2f classroom techniques to an online classroom, with an emphasis on keeping things simple and seemingly trying not to overwhelm someone new to the online classroom. In Chapter 2’s discussion of hybrid classes Warnock suggests that the quality of f2f classes, vs hybrid classes, vs online classes are equal (12). Specifically and most interestingly, Warnock focuses on the social persona that a professor might choose to create in an online classroom (73-74). Warnock's last 4 chapters discuss collaboration and assessment. This is a useful book for teachers who are trying to figure out their online teaching style.