Instructional-Design-Live #13: Social Presence in Online Courses

According to Garrison (2009), Social presence is “the ability of participants to identify with the community (e.g., course of study), communicate purposefully in a trusting environment, and develop inter-personal relationships by way of projecting their individual personalities.”

Defining, creating and maintaining social presence in online courses is the focus of this week’s show and is part of a three-part series that considers the Community of Inquiry framework.

Community of Inquiry image

Jennifer Maddrell leads the discussion as we address issues such as: differences between a Community of Inquiry and Community of Practice, how certain tools may help improve social presence and delivering meaningful activities that can enhance sense of being an integral part of the learning experience. 


Cammy’s live-blogged notes:

Web-conference Recording

Frequently cited articles and authors re: social presence:

Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet & Higher Education, 10(3), 157-172.

[Key synthesis of research … "research suggests that although social presence alone will not ensure the development of critical discourse in online learning, it is extremely difficult for such discourse to develop without a foundation of social presence." (p. 159)]


Gunawardena, C. N. (1995). Social Presence Theory and Implications for Interaction and Collaborative Learning in Computer Conferences. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2), 147-166.

[See definition … "… the degree to which a person is perceived as a “real person” in mediated communication." (p. 151)]


Gunawardena, C. N., & Zittle, F. J. (1997). Social Presence as a Predictor of Satisfaction within a Computer-Mediated Conferencing Environment. American Journal of Distance Education, 11(3), 8.


Henri, F. (1992). Computer conferencing and content analysis. In Collaborative learning through computer conferencing: The Najaden papers (pp. 117-136). Springer-Verlag.


Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (1999). Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text-Based Computer Conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 50-71.

[See definition … " … the ability of learners to project themselves socially and emotionally in a community of inquiry . The function of this element is to suppor t th e cognitive and affective objectives of learning. Social presence supports cognitive objectives through its ability to instigate, sustain, and support critical thinking in a community of learners" (p. 52)]


Rourke, L., & Kanuka, H. (2009). Learning in Communities of Inquiry: A Review of the Literature. Journal of Distance Education, 23(1), 19-48.

[Important critique of Community of Inquiry framework]


Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The Social Psychology of Communications. London: John Wiley.

[See definition … “degree of salience of the other person in the interaction and the consequent salience of the interpersonal relationships…” (p. 65)]


So, H., & Brush, T. A. (2008). Student Perceptions of Collaborative Learning, Social Presence and Satisfaction in a Blended Learning Environment: Relationships and Critical Factors. Computers & Education, 51(1), 318-336.

["Social constructivism is based on the idea that an individual person constructs his or her knowledge through the process of negotiating meanings with others." (p.320)]


Swan, K., & Ice, P. (2010). The community of inquiry framework ten years later: Introduction to the special issue. The Internet and Higher Education, 13(1-2), 1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.11.003


Swan, K., & Shih, L. F. (2005). On the Nature and Development of Social Presence in Online Course Discussions. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 9(3), 115 – 136.

[Good overview of literature on SP, survey items, and analysis indicators]


Tu, C. (2002). The Measurement of Social Presence in an Online Learning Environment. International Journal on E-Learning, 1(2), 34-45.


Chat Transcript: 

Apr 9, 2010 10:01:12 AM – IDL 13 – SOCIAL PRESENCE

00:02 – Marlene
Hi, Joni.

00:37 – Peggy George
Love all of the co-hosts for this show!! Share the fun!

01:13 – Marlene
Glad you could join us, Peggy.

01:15 – Peggy George
I’m so glad you’re extending the conversation on community of inquiry

03:18 – Peggy George
if you use the big A you don’t get the scroll bar

03:30 – Peggy George
this whiteboard screen will be saved in the recording

03:47 – Cammy
How is community of inquiry different from a community of practice?

04:08 – Peggy George
yes can read it fine

04:59 – Peggy George
does that mean you can’t be anonymous πŸ™‚

05:02 – Cammy
Social Presence = in a virtual space, creating a sense of a real, 3d person

05:40 – Jennifer Maddrell
Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The Social Psychology 
of Communications. London: John Wiley.
“degree of salience of the other person in the interaction and the 

06:19 – Robert
Let’s send it Joni’s way πŸ™‚

06:24 – Peggy George
I think of Community of Practice as a more commercial venture

06:24 – ckick
Practice without inquiry does not make sense.

06:30 – Joni
I think of the community of practice is our professional home…

06:48 – Robert

06:48 – Mary

06:48 – Jennifer Maddrell
Gunawardena, C. N. (1995). Social Presence Theory and Implications for 
Interaction and Collaborative Learning in Computer Conferences. 
International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2), 147-

mediated communication." (p. 151)

06:54 – Robert

06:58 – DBlack

06:58 – Cammy
we can hear you!

06:58 – Mary
Joni, yes, we can hear you

06:58 – Peggy George

07:20 – Jennifer Maddrell
Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (1999). 
Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text-Based Computer 
Conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 50-71.
" … the ability of learners to project themselves socially and 
emotionally in a community of inquiry . The function of this element 
is to suppor t th e cognitive and affective objectives of learning. 
Social presence supports cognitive objectives through its ability to 
instigate, sustain, and support critical thinking in a community of 
learners" (p. 52)

07:44 – Jon Zurfluh
You’re talking about Social Network Analysis – an area of organizational theory

08:19 – Cammy
Thank you…

08:29 – Peggy George
defined that way I think they are very similar

09:08 – Jon Zurfluh
Social capital is precursor to intellectual capital

09:47 – Joni
I agree Peggy. I think of Community of Inquiry as being specific to learning and being in a learning space. Whereas the community of practice is about the profession and the enculturation, contribution, maintenance, etc. of the community’s cultural knowledge and so on.

10:55 – Cammy
I’ve done very little with online classrooms — mostly asycn/self-paced.

13:55 – Peggy George
I’ve seen some really effective uses of Twitter as role-playing and identifying with different points of view with content

13:58 – Chris Bell
Cammy–are you in higher ed?

14:47 – Joni
Twitter is a way to tie the Community of Inquiry with students to the professional community of practice.

15:08 – Peggy George
that was such a great point Joni about providing engaging experiences to make the students want to take responsibility for their own learning

15:44 – Joni
It is one way. Other social networking tools help too — like Ning, Facebook, LinkedIn.

16:26 – Peggy George
I agree although LinkedIn isn’t as interactive in my experience as Ning and Facebook

16:56 – Joni
I use a lot of music activities for social connection, but also conceptual understanding activities. Powerful instructional strategy because of its emotional connection for folks.

17:24 – Joni
Peggy, have you used the groups feature in LinkedIn. That helps.

17:26 – sean has much potential as a free and open source solution to compete with Elluminate and other similar synchronous tools.

17:33 – Peggy George
I was in an Elluminate session yesterday where the moderator allowed us to contribute in app sharing and build our quiz items collaboratively. It was a great experience!

18:03 – Peggy George
yes I’ve used the groups feature a bit in LinkedIn but it still feels like it’s one way communication

18:11 – Joni
Anyone working with Learn Central?

18:23 – Peggy George
I use LearnCentral all the time

18:34 – sean
discussion in Blackboard is horrible. but other tools (e.g., phpBB open source forums) allow photos and signatures in posts so i think it’s far better than Blackboard with regard to class discussions.

19:03 – Joni
Yes, it isn’t great Peggy…I agree. It is just where a lot of the professional community of practice members hang out. πŸ™‚

19:16 – Peggy George
choices are good πŸ™‚

19:21 – Robert
Thanks for the tip Sean.

19:28 – Joni
I am intrigued with LearnCentral, Peggy. Should I be?

19:39 – Robert
We ae on our way to Moodle…

19:47 – Joni
I allow an opt out if it involves social networking.

19:56 – Peggy George
yes LearnCentral is a growing, vibrant social learning network where you can create your own groups

20:11 – Robert
It’s policy at UM

20:13 – Chris Bell
That seems like a viable solution for higher ed, not so much for K-12

20:45 – Peggy George
give them a choice about how they want to participate and don’t require one specific tool

20:48 – Joni
Individuals need to control their own online footprint. But with Twitter, I put a feed of my tweets in the course shell too so no one misses out.

21:18 – sean
i allow students to use their name or an alias, but no opt out.

21:34 – Peggy George
I agree with that Joni!

22:10 – Peggy George
Alec Couros provides a lot of options for participation in his open online courses

22:19 – Joni
It has a lot to do with relevance. I do a lot to help students see the relevance, and then make the decision. I allow an opt out, but by the end of the term most have seen the relevance and have joined in.

23:30 – Joni
The group feature in Facebook has allowed me to keep the personal and professional differentiated.

23:31 – Peggy George
that’s the key Joni!! once they understand how it is impacting their digital footprint and see the value they will want to join in

23:39 – sean
my bigger issue is the management of having so many students out blogging and commenting, etc. — i use Google Reader, but if i want to comment on a student’s blog entry then i still have to leave Google Reader and visit the actual blog. it’s very tedious when you have a lot of students.

24:37 – Peggy George
the same principle applies when you want your students to use social media or online blogs in K-12–you have to educate the parents so they will give permission

24:40 – Joni
I was challenged with making blogging relevant for my students…

25:40 – Peggy George
Joni say more about that–take the mic

25:41 – Joni
Ning and LearnCentral allow for the creation of bounded online social networks…that seems like  great approach for K-12

25:43 – Jennifer Maddrell
Feel free to grab the mic

25:56 – Joni
Say more about what, Peggy?

26:05 – Joni
I am rambling…

26:05 – Peggy George
@Joni-how did you make blogging more relevant to your students?

26:56 – Joni
For my students? Two things: establishing a professional portfolio to showcase their work, and to maintain an ideation journal to inspire their design work.

27:29 – Joni
But, I’ve had to really model it…and connect them to valuable blogs for them to see relevance. It is a challenge every time.

27:36 – Peggy George
your dissertation will definitely help to fill that research gap!!

28:26 – Peggy George
do you have students create eportfolios that are public and not behind secure environments?

28:47 – sean
little evidence to see benefits of professional portfolios to the student (beyond anecdotes).

28:56 – Peggy George
I love the courses that Alec Couros teaches online!!! Incredible learning experiences!

28:58 – Joni
Public. I think it is important for my students to find their public voice, and contribute their work to the community of practice.

29:14 – Joni
The practice field is the LMS, and that is private.

29:50 – Peggy George
I think it’s important that student reflections are shared with other students and not just the instructor

30:10 – Peggy George
give us some homework Jen πŸ™‚

30:37 – Peggy George
definition for cognitive presence???

31:13 – Peggy George
that sounds great!! looking forward to it!

31:15 – Cammy
Thanks, Jennifer!

31:18 – Cammy
Really interesting stuff.

31:24 – Jennifer Maddrell
no homework … just a lot of reading! πŸ˜‰

31:26 – Joni
Thanks Jennifer for a great session!

31:32 – Mary

31:33 – Peggy George
thank you! great conversation!

31:39 – Cammy
When you tack the word cognitive on anything it makes it sound really impressive πŸ™‚

31:45 – Jennifer Maddrell
thank you, all!

31:53 – DBlack
Looking forward to the coming sessions. Thanks for today’s fabulous session.

31:54 – Peggy George
yes! sort of like the word rigor πŸ™‚

32:04 – Marlene
Thanks for the discussion, Jennifer!

32:12 – Robert
Thank you–singing out… or signing

32:50 – mehmet
can somebody tell me

32:55 – Robert

32:56 – mehmet
what is going on here

33:02 – mehmet
what is this for ?

33:18 – Robert
Professional development, learning fun

34:18 – mehmet

34:45 – Marlene
Glad you made it over from EdTechTalk, mehmet.

35:07 – mehmet
i am nonnative speaker getting shy to speak

35:07 – mehmet

35:26 – Robert

36:39 – Cammy

36:42 – Cammy
my notes there.

36:46 – Cammy
Yeah, that was cool!

37:15 – Cammy
They’re kind of spotty, but something.





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