The Importance of Social Presence in the Online Classroom

study examined Empire State College online students to explore the relationship among student’s perception of social presence in online courses, as well as student’s perceived learning, and satisfaction with their instructor, found that there is a direct relationship between social presence and perceived learning.

The results found that students who felt that they had a lot of social presence with their instructor also perceived that they learned more from the course than students with felt very low social presence with their instructor, indicating that there is a relationship between social presence and perceived learning.

Students who were reported feeling most satisfied with their instructors also believed they learned more from their courses than students who were reported feeling less satisfied with their instructors. This result indicates a relationship between instructor satisfaction and perceived learning.

Students with high overall social presence scores also indicated they were highly satisfied with their instructor. This implies that students perceptions of social presence were related to the perceptions of their instructors as having a satisfactory online presence in terms of amount of interaction and/or quality of that interaction.

The results of this study show that a high social presence between an instructor and student is very beneficial to an online course. So what are some ways to increase social presence? According to an article by Dr. Hong Wang there are quite a few ways to increase social presence including:

  • Sending a welcome letter before the course starts.
  • Creating a personalized introduction so students can obtain more information about their instructor.
  • Making good use of email, such as scheduling changes, and providing students with ideas, guidance, and feedback.
  • Using course announcements frequently, and posting messages to students.
  • Taking advantage of the discussion board.
  • Using synchronous communication to not just increase, but enhance social presence.
  • Trying Web 2.0 tools for fun and collaboration.
  • Sending students a concluding remark and best-wishes statement.

In conclusion, social presence not only affects outcomes, but also student satisfaction within a course. It is important that instructors are aware of the impact that their online social presence or lack thereof may have on their students satisfaction, motivation, and learning.