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Social presence

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Social presence what is it? How do we measure it?
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Lowenthal, Patrick Ryan
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Computer-assisted instruction ( lcsh )
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Electronic villages (Computer networks) ( fast )
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Social presence theory is a central concept in online learning. Hundreds of studies have investigated social presence and online learning. However, despite the continued interest in social presence and online learning, many questions remain about the nature and development of social presence. Part of this might be due to the fact that the majority of past research has focused on students' perceptions of social presence rather than on how students actually establish their social presence in online learning environments. Using the Community of Inquiry Framework, this study explores how social presence manifests in a fully asynchronous online course in order to help instructional designers and faculty understand how to intentionally design opportunities for students to establish and maintain their social presence. This study employs a mixed-methods approach using word count, content analysis, and constant-comparison analysis to examine threaded discussions in a totally online graduate education course. The results of this study suggest that social presence is more complicated than previously imagined and that situational variables such as group size, instructional task, and previous relationships might influence how social presence is established and maintained in threaded discussions in a fully online course.
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by Patrick Ryan Lowenthal.

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Full Text
SOCIAL PRESENCE: WHAT IS IT? HOW DO WE MEASURE IT?
by
Patrick Ryan Lowenthal
B.A., Georgia State University, 1997
M.A., University of Colorado Boulder, 1999
M.A., University of Colorado Denver, 2003
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado Denver in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
2012


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by
Patrick Ryan Lowenthal
has been approved for the
Educational Leadership and Innovation
by
Joanna C. Dunlap, Chair
Joanna C. Dunlap, Advisor
Rodney Muth
Ellen Stevens
Patti Shank
Date
11


Lowenthal, Patrick Ryan (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
Social Presence: What is it? How do we measure it?
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Joanna C. Dunlap
Social presence theory is a central concept in online learning. Hundreds of studies have
investigated social presence and online learning. However, despite the continued interest
in social presence and online learning, many questions remain about the nature and
development of social presence. Part of this might be due to the fact that the majority of
past research has focused on students' perceptions of social presence rather than on how
students actually establish their social presence in online learning environments. Using
the Community of Inquiry Framework, this study explores how social presence manifests
in a fully asynchronous online course in order to help instructional designers and faculty
understand how to intentionally design opportunities for students to establish and
maintain their social presence. This study employs a mixed-methods approach using
word count, content analysis, and constant-comparison analysis to examine threaded
discussions in a totally online graduate education course. The results of this study suggest
that social presence is more complicated than previously imagined and that situational
variables such as group size, instructional task, and previous relationships might
influence how social presence is established and maintained in threaded discussions in a
fully online course.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Joanna C. Dunlap
111


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to the ladies of my life. First, I dedicate this to my mother. I
would not be the person I am today if it was not for her. Second, I dedicate this to my
wife, Alison, for (among other things) her unfaltering support and patience while I was
avoiding completing this thesis. I could not have completed this without her love and
support. Third, I dedicate this to my daughters, Jordan and Ashlyn. I hope they
understand one day why Daddy spent so much time on the computer. And over time I
hope they see me spend less time on the computer and more time with them. Last but not
least, I dedicate this to the two greatest dogs in the world, Beezer and Nikita. They both
supported me in their own way throughout this process over the years, and I miss them
dearly now that they are gone.
IV


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I want to thank my advisor, Joanna C. Dunlap, for her guidance, support, and
patience over the years. Joni taught me how to be a scholar and has been a great
colleague and friend. I look forward to continuing our relationship for years to come. I
also want to thank Ellen Stevens for never giving up on me and always asking those
tough questions over the years. I want to thank Rodney Muth for his unending support. I
took my first EDLI course with Rod, I published my first article with Rod, and I finished
my dissertation with Rod. I would also like to thank Marcia Muth for teaching me to be a
writer when that was the last thing I thought I would ever become. And finally I would
like to thank Patti Shank for her continued professional support over the years.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
FIGURES.........................................................xi
TABLES..........................................................xiii
CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION...................................................1
Background..................................................3
Social Presence Theory................................3
The Evolution of Social Presence Theory...............5
Limitation of Previous Studies..............................6
Statement of the Problem....................................9
Conceptual Framework.......................................10
Goal of the Study..........................................14
Overview of Methods........................................16
Sample...............................................16
Data Analysis........................................16
Reliability and Validity.............................18
Significance of Study......................................18
Limitations................................................19
Chapter Summary............................................19
2. LITERATURE REVIEW.............................................21
VI


A Brief History of Social Presence Theory..........................21
Theoretical Foundations of Social Presence Theory............21
Intimacy..............................................22
Immediacy.............................................22
Influential and Related Research on Social Presence..........23
Competing Theories of Social Presence Theory........................26
Cuelessness..................................................26
Media Richness...............................................27
Social Information Processing................................28
Defining Social Presence............................................31
Measuring Social Presence...........................................33
Gunawardenas Social Presence Scale..........................34
Rourke et al.s Social Presence Indicators...................35
Tu and The Social Presence and Privacy Questionnaire.........37
Research on Social Presence.........................................40
Social Presence and Student Satisfaction.....................40
Social Presence and Interaction..............................44
Social Presence and Student Learning.........................47
Establishing and Maintaining Social Presence........................53
Some Gaps in the Literature.........................................57
Chapter Summary.....................................................60
vii


3. METHOD.............................................................61
Research Question...............................................61
Research Design.................................................61
Sample..........................................................62
Sampling Scheme..........................................62
Sampling Design..........................................65
Data Collection.................................................67
Data Analysis...................................................67
Word Count...............................................68
Content Analysis.........................................69
Constant Comparison Analysis.............................77
Reliability and Validity........................................79
Reliability..............................................79
Validity.................................................80
Chapter Summary.................................................81
4. RESULTS............................................................82
Word Count......................................................82
Content Analysis................................................87
Stage One: Social Presence Categories and Indicators Across All
89
Vlll
Threaded Discussions


Stage Two: Social Presence Categories and Indicators by Threaded
Discussion...................................................94
Stage Three: Social Presence Categories and Indicators by
Students....................................................101
Constant Comparison Analysis.......................................106
Chapter Summary....................................................Ill
5. DISCUS SION............................................................112
Key Findings.......................................................112
Group Size..................................................114
Instructional Task..........................................116
Past Relationships..........................................119
One Size Does Not Fit All...................................120
Limitations of Studying Social Presence............................121
Situational Variables of CMC................................122
Unit of Analysis............................................126
Problems with the Social Presence Indicators and Treating Them
Equally.....................................................128
Problems with Measuring the Community of Inquiry............130
Limitations of the Study...........................................132
Concluding Thoughts and Implications...............................133
ix


APPENDIX
A. APPENDIX A.....................................136
B. APPENDIX B.....................................142
C. APPENDIX C.....................................146
REFERENCES.............................................150
X


LIST OF FIGURES
Figure
1.1 Community of Inquiry Framework..........................................11
1.2 Visual Depiction of Initial Conceptual Framework of Social Presence Developed
by Rourke et al., 2001a.................................................14
2.1 Communication Media and Information Richness Diagram....................28
2.2 Timeline of Competing Theories of Social Presence Preceding the Development
of the Community of Inquiry Framework...................................30
2.3 Continuum of Definitions of Social Presence.............................33
3.1 Steps Followed to Complete Constant Comparison Analysis of Online
Discussions.............................................................78
4.1 Word Cloud of Word Count Results Without the Discussions Headings.......84
4.2 Frequency of Possible Social Presence Indicators Across the Three Major
and Most Frequented Threaded Discussions................................85
4.3 Stages of Disaggregation of Content Analysis Used to Explore Use of Social
Presence Indicators in a Fully Online Asynchronous Course...............88
4.4 A Visual Depiction of the Frequency of Each of the Three Social Presence
Categories..............................................................90
4.5 Frequency of Social Presence Indicators Across All Threaded
Discussions.............................................................92
4.6 Social Presence Indicators Separated by Category........................93
4.7 Visual Depiction of the Average Social Presence Indicators Group by Category in
Closed Threaded Discussions.............................................97
XI


4.8 Ranking of Social Presence Indicators Used By the Three Students with the
Highest Overall Social Presence Per Post Average........................104
4.9 Disaggregation of Three Students with Highest Social Presence per Post
Average.................................................................106
xii


LIST OF TABLES
Table
1.1 Categories and indicators of social presence.....................................12
1.2 Alignment of research questions to data analysis.................................18
2.1 Phases of social presence research...............................................30
2.2 Example of social presence indicators..........................................36
2.3 Social presence dimension of the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire............39
2.4 Strategies to establish and develop social presence............................53
2.5 Strategies to establish and maintain social presence...........................55
3.1 Online descriptions............................................................64
3.2 Threaded discussions raw data..................................................66
3.3 Overvi ew of data analy si s...................................................68
3.4 Original social presence categories and example indicators.....................70
3.5 Rourke et al.s categories and indicators of social presence...................71
3.6 Evolution of the indicators of social presence.................................72
3.7 Swan and Hughes et al. combined list of categories and indicators of
social presence...............................................................73
3.8 Coding sheet used for content analysis.........................................75
4.1 Top 20 words used across all threaded discussions..............................83
4.2 Top 20 words across project groups.............................................86
4.3 Top 20 words across pairs......................................................86
4.4 Top 20 words across reading groups.............................................87
4.5 Social presence frequency across all forums....................................91
xiii


4.6 Social presence indicators ranking from highest to lowest frequency..........92
4.7 Open vs. closed threaded discussions.........................................95
4.8 Average social presence indicators per post across open and closed threaded
discussions.................................................................96
4.9 Average social presence indicators across closed threaded discussions........97
4.10 Ranking of average social presence indicators across closed threaded discussions98
4.11 Average social presence indicator per threaded discussion...................100
4.12 Students use of social presence categories.................................102
4.13 Groups of codes resulting from the constant comparison analysis of reading
Group E....................................................................108
4.14 Groups of codes resulting from the constant comparison analysis of
Pair 9.....................................................................110
5.1 Teaching presence categories and indicators.................................113
5.2 Instructor vs. student postings in small discussions........................117
5.3 Measuring social presence in a Community of Inquiry.........................131
XIV


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
I can remember when I started teaching online. I was a full believer in online
education. I had been teaching face-to-face courses and even taken a few courses online
myself. I was excited to teach online. At the same time, I was scared. I was scared that
somehow my personality, my classroom presence, my empathy, my ability to connect
with my studentsall things that I attributed to my success teaching face-to-facewould
not translate to an online environment.
I regularly meet faculty now who have similar fears. They fear that what they do
in the classroom cannot translate to an online environment. Fears like these, though, are
not restricted to faculty. I meet people all the time who make claims like, I just cant
learn that way or I need to talk to people face-to-face or online learning is just not for
me. For some time, people have had the choice to avoid learning online if it was not
their preferred way to learn. But the growth of online education (see Allen & Seaman,
2006, 2010), legislative trends that require students to learn online (Walters, 2011;
Watson, 2006), and the blurring of boundaries between fully online and traditional face-
to-face courses (Woo, McNeill, Preston, Green, & Phillips, 2008), suggest that in the near
future faculty and students will no longer have the choice to avoid online education.
Based on my research and experience, I contend that ones success learning
onlinespecifically in formal online education settingsbegins and ends with ones
ability to communicate effectively online. In my experience, students who struggle
communicating online (whether within a Learning Management System or using email)
struggle learning online in formal online educational settings. Communicating online is
1


simply different from communicating face-to-face (Suler, 2004). I am interested in these
differences and how peoplespecifically faculty and studentstake advantage of these
differences in formal education settings. In other words, I am interested in how faculty
and students leverage the strengths and minimize the limitations of a computer-mediated
communication (CMC) medium when teaching and learning online.
A supposed limitation of CMC and online education in general is that it is
difficult to establish ones presence as a real person and connect with others
generally called social presence (Kear, 2010). One reason people struggle learning online,
I posit, is related to this concept of social presence or the lack there of. For instance,
isolation and lonelinesswhich are in part due to a lack of presenceare often cited as
reasons why students do not persist online (Ali & Leeds, 2010; Ludwig-Hardman &
Dunlap, 2003).
I have set forth to investigate the big question of how people establish their
presence online by examining how people present themselves as real people in formal
online education environments (which predominantly rely on asynchronous CMC).
Ultimately, my hope is that my research can help others learn how to establish their social
presence in formal online education environments. In the following pages of this chapter,
I provide a formal rationale for and overview of this study by beginning with some
background literature on social presence, addressing limitations of previous research,
presenting my conceptual framework, and finally providing an overview of the
methodology used for this study.
2


Background
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, researchers began to study the effects of
computer-mediated communication (CMC) (Daft & Lengel, 1984, 1986; Rutter, 1984,
1987; Walther, 1996). Some concluded that CMC was inherently antisocial and
impersonal (Walther, 1996; Walther, Anderson, & Park, 1994). While Hiltz and Turoff
(1993), two early key researchers of CMC, acknowledged that interpersonal relationships
might be fostered through CMC, early research suggestedand convinced othersthat
CMC was better at task-oriented communication than interpersonal communication
(Walther & Parks, 2002). To make sense of findings like these, CMC researchers turned
to theories like Cuelessness Theory (Rutter, 1984, 1987), Media Richness Theory (Daft
& Lengel, 1984, 1986; Daft, Lengel, & Trevino, 1987), Social Information Processing
Theory (Walther, 1996; Walther & Parks, 2002) and Social Presence Theory (Short,
Williams, & Christie, 1976). Overtime, social presence theory appealed to more
researchers of online learning (as is evidenced in the growing body of research on social
presence and online learning). And today, social presence theory is the most often
referenced theory explaining the social nature of CMC in online educational
environments (Lowenthal, 2010).
Social Presence Theory
Short, Williams, and Christie (1976) originally developed the theory of social
presence to explain the effect telecommunications media have on communication. They
defined social presence as the degree of salience (i.e., quality or state of being there)
between two communicators using a communication medium. They posited that
communication media differ in their degree of social presence and that these differences
3


play an important role in how people interact. They conceptualized social presence
primarily as a quality of a communication medium that can determine the way that people
interact and communicate. From their perspective, people perceive some media as having
a higher degree of social presence (e.g., video) and other media as having a lower degree
of social presence (e.g., audio) and still other media having even a lower degree of social
presence (e.g., text). More importantly, Short et al. believed that a medium with a high
degree of social presence is seen as being sociable, warm, and personal, whereas a
medium with a low degree of social presence is seen as less personal. While people might
want a less intimate or immediate communication medium from time to time (see
Williams, 1975), formal education is a very social process that involves high
interpersonal involvement. Past research, for example, has specifically stressed the
importance of contact and cooperation between faculty and students (Chickering &
Gamson, 1987). Thus, early on social presence theory appeared to have direct
implications for educators in online environments.
In the late eighties and early nineties, relying on this theory, researchers began
concluding that CMC was inherently impersonal because the nonverbal and relational
cues (common in face-to-face communication) are filtered out of CMC (Walther & Parks,
2002). Later though in the mid-nineties, researchers began to notice, even though CMC
lacks nonverbal and relational cues, that it can still be very social and interpersonal
(Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) and at times even hyperpersonal
(Walther, 1996). Further, as researchers (Gunawardena, 1995; Tu, 2000) began
examining the sociability of online education, they started questioning the degree to
which the attributes of a communication mediumin this case the cues filtered out of
4


CMC systemsdetermine how people socially interact (Danchak, Walther, & Swan,
2001; Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Tu,
2000).
The Evolution of Social Presence Theory
Researchers of online learning (e.g., Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle,
1997; Tu, 2000) began questioning the theory of social presence developed by Short et al.
(1976). These researchers argued, based on their experience and research, that
participants in online asynchronous discussions, using text alone, are able to project their
personalities into online discussions and create social presence. They found that online
learners are able to present themselves as being real as well as connect with others
when communicating in online learning environments by doing such things as using
emoticons, telling stories, and even using humor (Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003).
Thus, a users personal perceptions of social presencewhich are influenced over time
and with experience using a communication mediumand the behaviors one learns to
use to make up for the cues that are filtered out matter just as much, if not more, than a
mediums supposed capabilities. This new line of research sparked a renewed interest in
the sociability of online learning, social presence, and CMC as evidenced in the increased
amount of literature focused on social presence.
Given the research stream, social presence is now a central concept in online
learning. For instance, social presence has been listed as a key component in theoretical
frameworks for distance education (Akyol & Garrison, 2009; Benbunan-Fich, Hiltz, &
Harasim, 2005; Vrasidas & Glass, 2002). Researchers have shownto varying degrees
a relationship between social presence and student satisfaction (Gunawardena, 1995;
5


Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Hostetter & Busch, 2006; Richardson & Swan, 2003; So &
Brush, 2008), social presence and the development of a community of learners (Rourke,
Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001a; Rovai, 2002; Ryman, Hardham, Richardson, &
Ross, 2009), and social presence and perceived learning (Caspi & Blau, 2008;
Richardson & Swan, 2003). Just as earlier researchers of CMC (Kiesler, 1986; Kiesler,
Siegel, McGuire, 1984) used social presence theory to explain why CMC was inherently
impersonal, later researchers (Gunawardena, 1995; Tu, 2000) reconceptualized social
presence theoryfocusing less on the medium and more on how people adapted to the
mediumto explain how CMC in online learning environments can be very personal and
social.
Limitations of Previous Studies
Despite the intuitive appeal and overall popularity of social presence theory,
research on social presence still suffers from a few problems. Early studies of social
presence and CMC had contradictory findings (see Walther et al., 1994). For instance,
studies conducted in laboratory settings tend to support cues-filtered-out perspectives that
suggested that CMC was inherently anti-social (Connolly, Jessup, & Valacich, 1990;
Hiemstra, 1982), whereas studies conducted in the field often did not (Walther, 1992;
Walther et al., 1994; Weedman, 1991). Walther et al. (1994) explain that contradictory
findings like these are likely due to the abbreviated time periods and unrealistic
experimental settings researchers used to study CMC.
In much the same way, later research on the sociability of online learning, social
presence, and CMC suffers from a number of limitations. First, researchers of social
presence cannot agree upon a single definition of social presence (Biocca & Harms,
6


2002; Biocca, Harms, & Burgoon, 2003; Rettie, 2003; Lane, 2011; Tu, 2002b). Instead,
researchers continue to redefine social presence (Lowenthal, 2010; Picciano, 2002).
Second, the majority of research conducted on social presence has various
conceptual or methodological limitations. For example, Gunawardena (1995;
Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997), one of the foundational and most often cited researchers
on social presence, primarily investigated learners feelings toward CMC as a medium of
communication (e.g., asking students the degree to the which they agree to statements
like CMC is an excellent medium for social interaction) rather than specifically asking
about how people adapted the medium for social purposes. Other researchers studied
social presence in hybrid courses (e.g., Hughes et al., 2007; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010; So
& Brush, 2008), online courses that had face-to-face meetings at the beginning of the
course (e.g., Tu, 2001; Wise et al., 2004), or non-traditional learning environments (e.g.,
6-week, self-paced, faculty-directed courses consisting of a single student) (e.g., Wise,
Chang, Duffy, & Del Valle, 2004). Each of these contexts would inevitably influence
how one establishes his or her own social presence as well as how one perceived the
social presence of others, but researchers (e.g., Richardson & Swan, 2003; Swan & Shih,
2005) have not explicitly acknowledged how these differences influence social presence.
In addition, most researchers studying social presence (e.g., Arbaugh &
Benbunan-fich, 2006; Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, & Fung, 2010; Gunawardena, 1995; Tu
2002a; Richardson & Swan, 2003) have used similar data-analysis techniques. The
majority of research has relied either on content analysis or on self-report data (obtained
through a questionnaire). Relying solely on one type of analysis can lead researchers to
make interpretive errors about the underlying phenomenon they are studying (Leech &
7


Onwuegbuzie, 2007). Studies of social presence might benefit from employing multiple
or mixed methods (see Lowenthal & Leech, 2009).
Third, foundational research on social presence is dated (Gunawardena, 1995;
Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Rourke et al, 2001a; Tu, 2001, 2002a, 2002b). The
majority of the foundational research on social presence is over five to ten years old, and
during the past five years alone CMC and online learning have grown exponentially.
CMC is no longer a fringe activity used by a select group of users (Smith, 2010); rather,
CMC, issues of the digital divide aside, is commonplace. As people use the Internet and
email to communicate with others more each day, it is logical to assume that they become
more adept at communicating, becoming literate with this medium. This is not simply a
case of supposed digital natives (i.e., those who have grown up with technology) using
CMC differently than digital immigrants (i.e., those who are new to technology)
(Brown, 2002; Prensky, 2001). Rather, it is an issue of how people learn to use any
communication medium better over time: The cell phone is a perfect example with
millions of users worldwide, from the slums of India to the penthouses of New York
Citynearly everybody seems to have a cell phone these days.
The increased amount of time spent online has led online users of all ages and all
generations to adjust their perceptions, expectations, and day-to-day use of CMC. Just as
research in the early 1990s (e.g., Gunawardena, 1995; Walther, 1992, 1994, 1996) began
to call into question CMC research in the 1980s (i.e., Kiesler, 1986; Kiesler, Siegel,
McGuire, 1984; Rutter, 1984, 1987), additional research on social presence might begin
to question research conducted in the late 1990s and early 2000s (e.g., Gunawardena &
Zittle, 1997; Rourke et al, 2001a; Tu, 2000). Researchers need to continue to study social


presence, and at times even replicate previous studies (unfortunately rarely done), in
order to ensure that current assumptions about social presence are still correct across
various contexts.
Finally, and most important, some research on social presence contradicts other
research (see Lowenthal, 2010). For instance, some researchers have found that social-
presence behaviors used by online learners decrease over time (Rourke, Anderson,
Garrison, & Archer, 2001a), while others have found that social presence behaviors do
not decrease over time (Stacey, 2002). In addition, Picciano (2002) found a relationship
between social presence and student learning, while Wise et al. (2004) did not. For all of
these reasons, additional research on social presence in online learning environments is
neededand especially in asynchronous learning environments, the dominant form of
online education (National Center for Education Statistics, 2008)to help clarify what
social presence is and its role in online learning.
Statement of the Problem
Despite the continued interest in social presence and CMC, many questions
remain about the nature and development of social presence (Lowenthal & Dunlap, 2011;
Swan & Shih, 2005; Rourke & Kanuka, 2009). In addition, some of what researchers and
practitioners think they do know is questionable due to the limitations of past research.
The majority of research on social presence (e.g., Gunawardena, 1995; Na Ubon &
Kimble, 2003; Picciano, 2002; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Rourke & Anderson, 2002b;
Russo & Campbell, 2004; Tu, 2002b; Wheeler, 2005; So & Brush, 2008) has focused on
faculty and students perceptions of social presence. Fewer studies by comparison (e.g.,
Hughes, Ventura, & Dando, 2007; Lomicka & Lord, 2007; Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan,
9


2002, 2003a) have actually studied observable indicators of social presence in online
discussions.
While it is important to understand perceptions of social presence, it is also
important to study what students do and say online (Kramer, Oh, & Fussell, 2006).
However, not enough studies do just this and the few studies that have done this have
failed to describe adequately how social presence manifests itself in asynchronous online
courses. Researchers (e.g., Hughes et al., 2007; Rourke et al., 2001a) have typically
sampled only one part of a course and analyzed it with only one type of analysis,
typically content analysis. As a result, I posit that both researchers and practitioners may
have a very limited understanding of social presence.
Given these reasons, I set forth to conduct a mixed methods exploratory study of
social presence. I chose to do this in hopes of learning more about the observable
indicators of social presence in online course discussions.
Conceptual Framework
Many researchers (Arbaugh, 2007; Delfino, & Manca, 2007; Lomicka & Lord,
2007; Nippard & Murphy, 2007; Rourke & Anderson, 2002a, 2002b; Swan et al., 2008)
have argued for some time that the community of inquiry (Col) framework is the most
popular framework to study social presence. The Col framework is a comprehensive
guide (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000) for research on the practice of online
learning (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). Garrison et al. (2000) argued that meaningful
learning takes place in a Col, comprised of teachers and students, through the interaction
of three core elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence (see
Figure 1.1).
10


Cognitive presence, the first element in the model, is the extent to which the
participants in. . a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through
sustained communication (Garrison et al., 2000, p. 89). Social presence, the second
element in the model, is the ability of participants in a community of inquiry to project
their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves to other
participants as real people (p. 89). Finally, teaching presence, the third element in the
model, is the ability of a teacher or teachers to support and enhance social and cognitive
presence through instructional management, building understanding, and direct
instruction.
Figure 1.1. Community of inquiry framework
Garrison et al. (2000) initially developed three categories of social presence (i.e.,
Emotional Expression, Open Communication, and Group Cohesion). They later
developed specific indicators of social presence (e.g., use of humor, continuing a thread,
or the use of vocatives) (Rourke et al., 2001a) to help identify observable instances of
social presence in CMC (see Table 1.1). They later renamed these categories (e.g.,
11


Emotional Expression was renamed Affective Responses) and tested the validity of the
categories and indicators of social presence (Rourke et al., 2001a). Swan (2003)
expanded the indicators even further, and then Hughes et al. (2007) later (though
apparently unaware of Swans work) made some changes to Rourke et al.s indicators as
well. Despite the renaming of the categories and some minor changes to the social
presence indicators (which are discussed in more detail in Chapters 2 and 3), Garrison et
al.s (2000) original categories and the later complete list of indicators (Rourke et al.,
2001) of social presence havefor the most partremained unchanged (see Table 1.1).
Table 1.1 Categories and Indicators of Social Presence
Category Indicators Definition of Indicators
Affective Responses (originally Emotional Expression) Expression of emotions Use of Humor Conventional expressions of emotion, or unconventional expressions of emotion, includes repetitious punctuation, conspicuous capitalization, emoticons Teasing, cajoling, irony, understatements, sarcasm
Self-Disclosure Presents details of life outside of class, or expresses vulnerability
Interactive Responses (originally Open Communication) Continuing a Thread Quoting from Other Messages Using reply feature of software, rather than starting a new thread Using software features to quote others entire message or cutting and pasting sections of others messages
Referring explicitly to other messages Direct references to contents of others posts
Asking questions Students ask questions of other students or the moderator
Complimenting, expressing appreciation Complimenting others or contents of others messages
Expressing agreement Expressing agreement with others or content of others messages
12


Table 1.1 (cont.)
Cohesive
Responses
(originally
Group
Addresses or refers Addresses the group as we, us, our, group
to the group using
inclusive pronouns
Vocatives
Addressing or referring to participants by
name
Cohesion)
Phatics / Salutations Communication that serves a purely social
function; greetings, closures
Note. From Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text-based Computer
Conferencing, by L. Rourke, D. R. Garrison, and W. Archer, 2001a, in Journal of
Distance Education, 14.
Garrison, though, pointed out in 2008 that these indicators have not been revisited since
their initial development and that they might need to be revised (Arbaugh et al., 2008)
which in many ways is a possible outcome of this study.
Rourke et al. (2001a) were the first to test and validate the indicators of social
presence. However, Garrison et al. (2000) and later Rourke et al. (2001a) did not clearly
identify the relationship between the indicators of social presence. In other words, they
left researchers wondering whether certain categories or indicators of social presence are
better examples than others. When faced with the need to calculate a social presence
scorefrom the frequency of indicators found in the coded transcripts of CMCthey
decided to treat all indicators equally and simply sum the frequencies of all 12 indicators
(Rourke et al., 2001a). This appeared to have been more of a pragmatic decision rather
than a theoretical or empirical decision to find a way to create a social presence score
from the indicators in order to quantify and compare transcripts of CMC. Rourke et al.,
2001a though openly admitted their uncertainty about weighting all 12 indicators equally.
Despite this admitted uncertainty, researchers have followed the same process in
13


developing a social presence score, though Hughes et al. (2007) was openly critical of
this practice.
Following the work of researchers like Rourke et al. (2001a), I conceptualize
social presence as an additive process in which all categories and indicators of social
presence are of equal importance (see Figure 1.2). However, like Hughes et al. (2007), I
am skeptical of this conceptualization and hope that among other things my research will
(by using multiple forms of analysis) help support or challenge the assumed additive
nature of Rourke et al.s conceptualization of social presence.
Affective
Expression
of emotions
Use of
Humor
Self-
Cohesive
Vocatives
Use of
Inclusive
Pronouns
Phatics/
Salutations
n r
--------;\
Interactive
Continuing a
Thread
Quoting from
Other Messages
Referring
Explicitly to
Other Messages
Social
Presence
Asking
Questions
Complimenting
/ Expressing
Appreciation
V_________________/
Figure 1.2. Visual depiction of initial conceptual framework of social presence
developed by Rourke et al., 2000a.
Goal of the Study
The goal of this study is to understand better how social presence manifests in
threaded discussions in asynchronous online courses. However, all CMC is not the same
(Herring, 2007). While researchers can generalize about CMC at some level, they should
14


recognize the situated and changing nature of social presence. Given this and to
accomplish the goal of this study, I study social presence in an intentional, socially
situated, specific context. Thus, the goal of this study is to explore the phenomenon
known as social presence by investigating how it manifests during online discourse in an
asynchronous online graduate education course.
The following research question guides this exploratory study: How does social
presence manifest in an asynchronous, online graduate-education course? This specific
question was chosen because the majority of research on social presence has either relied
solely on self-report data of faculty and student perceptions of social presence or has been
confined to a monomethod approachusually using content analysisto analyze a few
weeks of online threaded discussions. Both of these approaches fail to explore and
describe how social presence manifests in threaded discussions over the length of a
course. In other words, what are faculty and students actually doing to establish their
social presence? The focus of this study, given this research question, is on developing a
rich description of social presence by using multiple types of data analysis in order to
help faculty and students have better experiences in online courses and to enable course
designers to develop better online courses.
Overview of Methods
In the following paragraphs, I briefly describe the methods used for this study. I
specifically focus on the sample, data analysis, reliability, and validity. Each of these
topics is addressed in greater detail in Chapter 3.
15


Sample
A single, completely online graduate course in education was purposefully and
conveniently sampled for this study. Thus, a non-random (non-probability) criterion
sampling scheme was used in this study (Onwuegbuzie & Collins, 2007). A section of
EDLI 7210 Educational Policy Making in a Democratic Societywhich was taught
online in the spring of 2007was identified as an appropriate sample for this study. The
course was a graduate-level online course in the School of Education and Human
Development at the University of Colorado Denver delivered via eCollege. All of the
threaded discussions in the eCollege course shell for this course were used for this study.
The population of the course primarily consisted of graduate students completing
coursework for an Educational Specialist (EdS) degree or a PhD. Many of the EdS
students were also seeking their principal license. Nineteen graduate students were
enrolled in the course.
Data Analysis
The majority of research on social presence has relied primarily on self-report
survey data (e.g., Gunawardena, 1995; Richardson & Swan, 2003). While self-report
survey measures are useful and have their place in educational research, as Kramer, Oh,
and Fussell (2006) point out, they are retroactive and insensitive to changes in presence
over the course of an interaction [or semester] (p. 1). In this study, rather than focus on
students perceptions of presence (which I have done in other studies such as Lowenthal
& Dunlap, 2011; Lowenthal, Lowenthal, & White, 2009), I focused instead on what was
said in the online threaded discussions.
16


I used a mixed-methods exploratory methodology (Miles & Huberman, 1994;
Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2005b) that employed both quantitative and qualitative methods
to conduct this study. In order to explore social presence in a specific situated
asynchronous learning environment in great detail, I analyzed the online threaded
discussions (now archived in the discussion forums) using word count, content analysis,
and constant comparison analysis (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007).
More specifically, multiple forms of data analysis were used to address the
research question How does social presence manifest in a graduate education
asynchronous online course? (see Table 1.2 above for an illustration of this). First, I
analyzed all of the discussions with word count (in conjunction with basic descriptive
statistics of each forum) to identify which threaded discussion had a higher frequency of
words and posts as well as which ones had a higher number of social presence indicators
(types of words). Second, I used content analysis to analyze every threaded discussion,
using a modified version of the social presence indicators developed by Garrison et al.
(2000) and later modified by Swan (2003) and Hughes et al. (2007). Based on the results
of the word count and content analysis, I then selected two discussion threadsone with
a high number of social presence indicators and one with a low number of social presence
indicatorsto analyze in more depth with a grounded theory constant comparison
analysis technique.
17


Table 1.2 Alignment of Research Questions to Data Analysis
Research Question Data Analysis Type of Data
How does social presence Word Count All course discussions
manifest in a graduate education asynchronous (Quantitative)
online course? Content Analysis (Quantitative) All course discussions
Constant Comparative One discussion threads
Analysis with high social
(Qualitative) presence & one with low social presence
Reliability and Validity
Reliability and validity are key considerations for any researcher. The most
common method used to calculate interrater reliability is a percent agreement statistic
(Rourke et al., 2001b). Two researchers (me and another researcher) coded the threaded
discussions using content analysis. A percent agreement statistic was calculated using
Holstis (1969) coefficient of reliability. A large component of establishing validity
which is often described as trustworthiness in qualitative literatureis developing a
sound theoretical framework (Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, Koole, & Kappelman, 2006). I
have established the validity of this study by working from Garrison et al.s Col
framework. Further, the coding schemes I used for this study also came directly from the
literature (Hughes et al., 2007; Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003).
Significance of the Study
Learning is a very human and social activity (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009b).
Online learning environments, though, can feel isolating and impersonal. Given this,
educators must find ways to make formal online learning environments more personal
18


and less isolating not only to help students persist but also to increase engagement and
satisfaction. To accomplish this, educators have focused on establishing social presence
in online courses (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009b).
The significance or educational value of this research lies in its ability to help
researchers better identify and study instances of social presence as well as to help faculty
who teach online better understand how they can identify and establish social presence by
using specific indicators of social presence. Further, the results of this study can help
instructional designers design and develop online courses that utilize specific
instructional approaches to help students establish their social presence online.
Limitations
All studies suffer from some type of limitation. Perhaps the most obvious
limitation is the time that has passed between when the course was offered and when I
analyzed the data. Related to this limitation is my inability to check with students
(whether through specific interviews or member checking) to verify whether or not what
I found in the course discussions is actually what they intended. However, one of the
main reasons to focus on the language students use is because students rarely clarify what
they mean by a posting; rather, other students simply do their best to make sense of what
they read. In other words, in my experience very little member checking occurs in a
typical online discussion so this limitation might actually end up being a very realistic
component to this study.
Chapter Summary
Researchers have been studying social presence in online learning environments
for a number of years now (Lowenthal, 2009). However, research on social presence to
19


date suffers from a host of problemsranging from inconsistent and contradictory
findings to strange sampling decisions. Part of the problem might be the methodological
decisions made by researchers. Instead of using a monomethod approach like the
majority of past research, I employed a mixed-methods approach to studying social
presence, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the complex
nature of social presence. In addition, this study specifically focused on how social
presence manifests during threaded discussions in asynchronous online courses.
In Chapter 2,1 present a review of the literature. In Chapter 3,1 go over the
methods used for this study. In Chapters 4 and 5 I present the results, discuss the
findings, and provide recommendations for faculty and instructional designers as well as
for future research on social presence.
20


CHAPTER 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
In the following chapter, I synthesize past research on social presence in general
and specifically research on the community of inquiry (Col) framework to provide a
foundation and some background for my study. I begin by addressing the history of
social presence theory. After that, I address some early competing theories of social
presence and some differences in how researchers define and measure social presence. I
then conclude this chapter by synthesizing some of the research conducted on the
community of inquiry in general and social presence in particular and addressing some
gaps in the literature.
A Brief History of Social Presence Theory
As mentioned in Chapter 1, Short, Williams, and Christie (1976) developed the
initial theory of social presence in their book, The Social Psychology of
Telecommunications. While this book often serves as the foundational text to understand
the initial theory of social presence, it is important to look at the foundations of this
theory as well as later research conducted by Short et al. to understand how the theory of
social presence has evolved over the years.
Theoretical Foundations of Social Presence Theory
The collective work of Short et al. (1976) that is presented in The Social
Psychology of Telecommunications as well the work Short, Williams, and Christie (e.g.,
Short, 1974; Christie & Kingan, 1977; Williams, 1975; Wilson & Williams, 1977)
conducted individually or with other colleagues before and after their seminal text was
influenced by the social psychology concepts of intimacy and immediacy. Short et al.
21


openly acknowledge that their concept of social presence is related to these two concepts.
Thus, each of these concepts is discussed in more detail in the following paragraphs.
Intimacy. Argyle and Dean (1965) were the first to use the concept of intimacy to
explain communication behavior. They developed a theory of intimacy and equilibrium
to explain how people communicating with each other will adjust their behavior to
maintain a sense of equilibrium. They explain that
aspects of intimacy are governed by both approach and avoidance forces, and are
kept in a condition of equilibrium for any two people.. .if this equilibrium is
disturbed along one of its constituent dimensions, e.g., by increasing physical
proximity, there will be compensatory changes along the other dimensions, (p.
304)
According to Argle (1969), people establish intimacy in a number of ways when
communicating, such as proximity, eye contact, smiling, and personal topics of
conversation. Short et al. (1976) argue that the social presence of a communication
medium also effects intimacy and therefore should be added to this list of ways that
people establish intimacy.
Immediacy. Wiener and Mehrabian (1968) developed the concept of immediacy.
They conceptualized immediacy as the psychological distance people put between
themselves and others when communicating. While Wiener and Mehrabian (1968) were
initially focused on speech communication, Mehrabian (1972) later distinguished
between three types of immediacy: verbal, nonverbal, and technological immediacy.
Verbal immediacy describes how people use their choice of words to reduce or increase
psychological distance between them and others. For example, the use of the words let
us or we can create more immediacy between two people than simply using you or
CCJ 55
22


People also convey immediacy nonverbally through their dress, facial
expressions, or physical proximity (Mehrabian, 1972). Finally, technological immediacy
suggests that a medium of communication can convey immediacy. According to
Mehrabian (1972), communicating face-to-face is more immediate than communicating
with video; further, communicating with a video is more immediate than communicating
by phone.
While immediacy in general, and technological immediacy in particular, is similar
to social presence, Short et al. (1976) argue that important differences exist. For instance,
Short et al. argue that for any given medium of communication (e.g., telephone) and
situation (e.g., long-distance call), immediacy may vary even when social presence does
not (p. 73).
While Short et al. (1976) claim that important differences are found between
immediacy and social presence, the distinction is not very clear. Further, they spend only
a few paragraphs addressing the similarities and differences between social presence,
intimacy, and immediacy. Not surprisingly, subsequent researchers often fail to
differentiate clearly between intimacy, immediacy and social presence; in fact,
researchers often appear to use the terms immediacy and social presence synonymously
(e.g., Gunawardena, 1995).
Influential and Related Research on Social Presence
Short et al. (1976) were all part of the Communications Studies Group at
University College in London. The Communications Studies Group consisted of an
estimated 30 people who conducted a number of experiments in the early 1970s on
communication media (Pye & Williams, 1978). Interestingly, The Social Psychology of
23


Telecommunications appears to be the only joint publication by these three researchers.
However, each of them published, as individuals or with other colleagues, a number of
other studies on the effects of communication media (e.g., Short, 1974; Christie &
Holloway, 1975; Christie & Kingan, 1977; Williams, 1975; Williams, 1977; Wilson &
Williams, 1977). The majority of this research focused on comparing peoples attitudes
toward different communication media (e.g., face-to-face, audio, video). The following
paragraphs briefly summarize a few key findings from this early research that later
influenced the development of and peoples understandings of social presence theory.
The majority of this early research focused on the assumed importance of the
visual channel of communication. Given the importance placed on the visual channel in
previous literature, Short et al. (1976) and colleagues not surprisingly found that the
visual channel of communication was an advantage of a communication medium and
therefore highly important (Christie, 1974; Short, 1974; Williams, 1975). Christie (1974)
reports from one study that
visual media were judged more useful for complex group discussions, private
conversations and non-private dyadic conversations. Thus, the presence of visual
channel appears to be perceived as an important advantage of a communications
medium, (p. 367)
Additional research (Christie, 1974; Christie & Kingan, 1977; Williams, 1975),
though, began to show that the importance of a communication medium depended largely
on the task at hand. In fact, according to Christie (1974), it is clearly misleading to
conceptualize different media as lying along a single dimension of acceptability or
usefulness. Their perceived usefulness varies according to the application considered (p.
368). Williams (1975) argued that people might want a less intimate or immediate
communication medium for certain tasks. For instance, Williams (1975) suggests that
24


with tasks of very high intimacyperhaps very embarrassing, personal or conflictual
onesthe least immediate medium, the telephone, would lead to more favorable
evaluations than either of the more immediate media (p. 128). Further, their research
showed that tasks that are low on interpersonal involvement but still cooperative in nature
can easily be accomplished by audio or video conferencing (Williams, 1978a); however,
tasks that require more interpersonal involvement are sensitive to the substitution of
telecommunications for face-to-face interaction (p. 127).
Other than the suggestions made by Williams (1978a), very little was written in
these early articles about the role of the visual channel for instructional tasks. However,
Williams (1978a) argued that tele-education seems especially promising since
educational activities are primarily for cooperative problem-solving and the transmission
of informationactivities which have been shown to be almost unaffected by the
medium of communication used (p. 129). Williams (1978a) went on to point out that our
knowledge about the role of mediated communication is far from completeas was our
understanding of how people learned in the late 1970s.
Later research conducted by Christie and Kingan (1977), showed, among other
things, that while visual cues are helpful, they are not necessary for people to
communicate effectively. In fact, physical presence (i.e., being close to someone
physically) may be even more important for two people communicating than visual cues
(i.e., seeing another person) (Williams, 1978b). Results like these began to call for a
more complex explanation for the role of visual cues in the communication process.
Williams (1978b) suggested that the answers might be found in the theory of social
presence.
25


Competing Theories of Social Presence
The theory of social presence developed by Short et al. was only one of a number
of theories used to explain the influence a communication medium can have on
communication. The three most popular competing theories of social presence
especially during the 1980swere Cuelessness Theory developed by Rutter (1984,
1987), Media Richness Theory developed by Daft and Lengel (1984, 1986; Daft, Lengel,
& Trevino, 1987), and Social Information Processing Theory developed by Walther
(1996; Walther & Parks, 2002). The first two theories (like Social Presence Theory) have
been described as deficit models because they focus on the cues that are filtered out and
idealize face-to-face communication as the gold standard (Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic,
2004), whereas the third theory focuses not only on what is filtered out but what is gained
through CMC. Each of these theories are addressed briefly in the following sections to
illustrate the Zeitgeist of the 1980s and early 1990s when researchers of online learning
reinvented the theory of social presence developed by Short et al.
Cuelessness
Working from a similar theoretical framework, Rutter (1984, 1987; Rutter,
Pennington, Dewey, & Swain, 1984; Kemp & Rutter, 1986) developed what he called the
Cuelessness Model. Rutter was concerned with the over emphasis placed on the
importance of eye-contact when two people were communicating. As a result, he and his
colleagues (1984) set forth to challenge the intimacy model developed by Argyle and
Dean (1965) and later Argyle and Cook (1976). Rutter and his colleagues argued that
previous research had focused too much on looking and eye-gaze and not enough on the
mutual gazing back and forth. Like Williams before, Rutter et al. (1986) found that what
26


mattered was visual access to the entire person rather than simply access to anothers
eyes. They argued that it was the combined social cuesfrom vision and other senses
that mattered.
The Cuelessness Model essentially claims that the fewer social cues, the greater
the psychological distance between two communicators (Rutter et al., 1986). Further, the
greater the psychological distance, the more communication turns to task-oriented
depersonalized content (Kemp & Rutter, 1986; Rutter, 1984; Rutter et al., 1986). In fact,
Rutter and colleagues (Rutter, 1989) found that the number of social cues (i.e., both
visual and physical presence cues) decreased when comparing how people communicated
in certain situations (e.g., closed-circuit television, curtain, and audio).
Media Richness
Another competing theory that emerged during the 1980s is the theory of Media
Richness. Media Richness Theory was developed by Daft and Lengel (1984, 1986).
Whereas Rutter and colleagues were aware of the work of Short et al., Daft and Lengel
never seem to explicitly acknowledge the work of Short et al. Daft and Lengel (1984)
were focused primarily on the information processing behaviors in organizations.
Therefore, they were interested in a concept called information richness:
Richness is defined as the potential information-carrying capacity of data. If the
communication of an item of data, such as a wink, provides substantial new
understanding, it would be considered rich. If the datum provides little
understanding, it would be low in richness, (p. 196)
They posited that a communication medium can determine the richness of information
(Daft & Lengel, 1986). They argued that face-to-face communication had the highest
richness and numeric communication (e.g., spreadsheet with numbers) the lowest; see
Figure 2.1 for a complete list of media richness by media.
27


Information Medium Information Richness
Face-to-Face Highest
Telephone High
Written, Personal Moderate
(bulletins, documents)
Written, Formal (bulletins, Low
documents)
Numeric Formal Lowest
(computer output)
Figure 2.1. Communication media and information richness diagram
Note. From Information Richness: A New Approach to Managerial Behavior and
Organizational Design, by R. L. Daft and R. H. Lengel, 1984, in L. L. Cummings & B.
M. Staw (Eds.), Research in Organizational Behavior (191-233). Homewood, IL: JAI.
Social Information Processing
The last of the three competing models is the Social Information Processing
model developed by Walther (1992, 1994, 1996). Walther developed his model in
response to the previous so-called deficit theories. Whereas previous researchers were
interested in media effects across various communication media, Walther focused
primarily on CMC. He criticized previous research, like that addressed earlier in this
chapter, for a number of reasons. First, the majority of the early research was conducted
in experimental settings that did not mirror how people communicate with different
media in real life (1992). Second, these early studies and researchers assumed that the
absence of visual cues led to an absence of sociability. Third, they assumed that task-
oriented communication lacked relational and social communication. Finally, they failed
to acknowledge that just as cues are filtered out, other cues are filtered into CMC and
28


therefore CMC has some affordances that face-to-face communication does not (Walther,
1996; Walther & Parks, 2002).
Walther (1992) argued that Humans social nature is the same in CMC and face-
to-face environments. Given enough time, he believed that people will find ways to
compensate for any cues that are filtered out in CMC. The social information processing
model essentially posits that given enough time, CMC can be very personal and even
hyperpersonal (Walther, 1992, 1996). Previous research tended to put time restrictions on
how people communicated that Walther believed diminished the possibility of
interpersonal and relational communication. Walthers research on the other hand
suggested that
Previous interaction between communicators influenced how people
communicated online;
The possibility of future interaction influenced the degree to which people
socially interacted online;
The way users used emoticons influenced interpersonal communication
online.
These competing theories help illustrate the way that thinking about a mediums
effect on communicationespecially interpersonal and social communicationchange
over time. The research that began with the work of Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena
& Zittle, 1997)which I refer to as the third phase of social presence research (see Table
2.1 and Figure 2.2)was influenced by previous research and theories, especially that of
Walther. Rather than conceptualizing social presence as Short et al. did, Gunawardena
and those that followed her (like Garrison et al., 2000, whose work serves as the
29


conceptual framework for this study) began reconceptualizing social presence theory
focusing more on how people appropriate technology rather than simply on what a
technology allows us to do. In fact, the work of Garrison et al. and the Col really
represent a fourth phase of research on social presence (see Table 2.1 and Figure 2.2).
Table 2.1 Phases of Social Presence Research
Phase Period Key Figures Focus of Research
Phase 1 1970s Short et al. Focused on T el ecommuni cati ons
Phase 2 1980s-earlyl990s Rutter Daft & Lengel Kiesler Walther Focused on CMC
Phase 3 1990 1999 Gunawardena Rourke et al. Tu Focused on Online Learning
Phase 4 2000s Present Garrison et al. Karen Swan Peter Shea Focused on Social Presences Role in establishing a community of inquiry in Online Learning
cr
cf


4>
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SJ'
O SN
V fC*

£

jf
&
Tv
- X .oT


pH 5N. Jj
if
&
^V
/y
.V
kOv
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1970 1976 1979 1984 1992 1995 2000
Figure 2.2. Timeline of competing theories of social presence preceding the
development of the community of inquiry framework.
30


Defining Social Presence
Given the evolution of social presence theory, it is probably not surprising that
there is not a clear, agreed upon, definition of social presence (Rettie, 2003; Tu, 2002b).
In fact, nearly everyone who writes about social presence seems to define it just a little
differently.
Presence is a key theoretical construct used in a variety of disciplines besides
communication and online learningmost notably virtual reality (see Biocca, 1997). In
fact, Lombard and Ditton (1997) identified six interrelated but distinct ways that people
understand presence: (a) presence as social richness, (b) presence as realism, (c)
presence as transportation, (d) presence as immersion, (e) presence as social actor within
medium, and (f) presence as medium as social actor. They even attempted to create one
all encompassing definition of presence. According to Lombard and Ditto, the following
definition takes into consideration all six ways presence is understood; presence is the
perceptual illusion of nonmediation (presence explicated section). To date, though, their
all encompassing definition has not been widely adopted by others. Biocca, Harms, and
Burgoon (2003) also recognized the different ways researchers across different fields
define presence. They attempted to create an all-encompassing definition of social
presence as well; they defined social presence as simply a sense of being with another
(p. 456) whether that other is human or artificial.
Despite attempts by Lombard and Ditto (1997) and Biocca et al. (2003) to
develop some conceptual clarity when it comes to discussions of presence in general or
social presence in particular, researchers of social presence and CMC in educational
environments continue to redefine social presence (Picciano, 2002). Gunawardena (1995)
31


defined social presence as the degree to which a person is perceived as a real person in
mediated communication (p. 151). Garrison et al. (2000), on the other hand, originally
defined social presence as the ability of participants in a community of inquiry to project
themselves socially and emotionally, as real people (i.e., their full personality), through
the medium of communication being used (p. 94). Tu and Mclsaac (2002) define social
presence as the degree of feeling, perception, and reaction of being connected by CMC
to another intellectual entity through a text-based encounter (p. 140). Finally, Picciano
(2002) defines social presence as a students sense of being in and belonging in a course
and the ability to interact with other students and an instructor (p. 22).
The differences in how researchers define social presence might seem minor but
they are important (see Ice, Gibson, Boston, & Becher, 2011). For instance, Rourke et al.
(2001) focus on students (or instructors) ability to project themselves as real whereas
Picciano focuses more on students sense of belonging to a community. Issues of
definition are important because the way researchers define social presence influences
how they measure social presence and the conclusions they draw.
Definitions of social presence, at least for researchers of social presence and
online learning, tend to fall on a continuum (see Figure 2.3). At one end of the
continuum, researchers tend to conceptualize social presence as the degree to which a
person is perceived as being real and being there. These definitions tend to focus on
whether someone is able to project himself or herself as being real in an online
environment and whether others perceived this person as being there and being real. In
fact, Williams (1978a) defined social presence in this way when he defined social
32


presence as the feeling of contact obtained. across various communication media (p.
127).
At the other end of the continuum, researchers tend to go beyond whether
someone is perceived as being presentthat is, simply there or realinstead
focusing on whether there is an interpersonal emotional connection between
communicators. It is important to note, though, that on this end of the continuum, there
tends to be an assumption that the interpersonal and emotional connection that
communicators establish when there is social presence is a positive connection. Finally,
like most continuums, the majority of researchers find themselves somewhere in the
middleplacing some emphasis on an emotional connectionrather than on the ends of
the continuums.
Sense that someone is real Sense that someone is real
Sense that someone is there (present) Sense that someone is there (present)
No focus on emotion Emotional Connection
4
Figure 2.3. Continuum of Definitions of Social Presence
Measuring Social Presence
After all the theorizing, researchers need to be able to identify, measure, and test
their theories about social presence. As researchers began to conceptualize social
presence differently, rather than use techniques developed and utilized by past
researchersperhaps because of Walthers critique of these techniquesthey began to
look for new ways to study social presence. Gunawardena (1995), Rourke et al. (2001),
and Tu (2002b) have been three foundational researchers in developing ways to study
33


social presence. But just like in the mid-1970swhen researchers either studied social
presence by observing user behavior or examining users attitudes (Christie, 1974)
researchers in the third and fourth wave of social presence research have tended to focus
either on studying users attitudes or their behaviors online. For instance, Gunawardena
and Tu focused primarily on studying users attitudes whereas Rourke et al. focused on
studying users behaviors (though it is important to note that while Garrison early on
focused on studying users behaviors with his colleagues Rourke et al., he later turned to
studying students attitudes). Regardless of their focus, the work of each of these
researchers has heavily influenced most of the studies on social presence and CMC
during the past ten years. In the following paragraphs, I will address how each of these
researchers studied social presence.
Gunawardenas Social Presence Scales
Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) conducted some of the earliest
studies on social presence and CMC in an education setting. In her first article,
Gunawardena (1995) reported on two different studies she conducted in the early 1990s.
In the first study, she measured users perceptions of CMC using a survey. She had
students rank 17 bi-polar scales on a 5-point likert-type scale (from negative to positive).
For instance, she asked students whether CMC was more socialable or unsocialable or
more warm or cold (see Table Al in Appendix A for the complete list). The bi-polar
scales she used focus on users perceptions of the medium more than the degree to which
users perceive others as real or there.
34


Gunawardena (1995) reports in the same article about a second study in which she
qualitatively analyzed some data; however, she does not elaborate on what data she
analyzed or how she analyzed the data that she reported.
In a later article, Gunawardena and Zittle (1997) reported on additional data
collected from an earlier sample. However, with this study, Gunawardena and Zittle
created an instrument they called the Social Presence Scale (see Appendix A). The Social
Presence Scale was similar to the previous scale used by Gunawardena, but instead of
responding to bi-polar scales, students were asked to rank 14 questions on a scale of 1 to
5. For instance, one question asked students to rank on a scale of 1 to 5 to what degree
they agree or disagree that CMC is an excellent medium for social interaction. The Social
Presence Scale was tested for internal consistency (Alpha = .88) and appears to
investigate the construct of social presence more directly than the previous scale.
Rourke et al.s Social Presence Indicators
Unlike Gunawardena who measured social presence through a self-report
questionnaire, Rourke et al. (2001) sought to measure social presence through analyzing
online discussions. As touched on in Chapter 1, Rourke et al. identified three different
categories of social presence: affective responses, interactive responses, and cohesive
responses. They then developed twelve indicators that researchers could use to analyze
transcripts of CMC (primarily through content analysis). An example of these indictors
can be seen in Table 2.2 (see Appendix A for the complete list of indicators). Rourke et
al. developed these categories and indicators based on their previous work (Garrison,
Anderson, & Archer, 2000; Rourke, et al., 2001a), other literature in the field, and finally
their experience reading online transcripts.
35


Table 2.2 Example of Social Presence Indicators
Category Indicators Definition of Indicators
Affective Responses Expression of emotions Conventional expressions of emotion, or unconventional expressions of emotion, includes repetitious punctuation, conspicuous capitalization, emoticons
Use of Humor Teasing, cajoling, irony, understatements, sarcasm
Self-Disclosure Presents details of life outside of class, or expresses vulnerability
Rourke et al. (2001a) tested and measured the efficacy and reliability of their
categories and indicators by using them with participants in two graduate education
online courses. One single week from each course was identified, and all of the
discussion postings for those two weeks were analyzed. The first course had more than
twice the number of postings and words as the second course; as a result, in order to
compare the two, Rourke et al. (2001a) summed the raw number of instances and divided
by the total number of words and then multiplied it by 1000 to come up with a social
presence density score. They had high interrater reliability.
Rourke et al. (2001a), though, cautioned readers about generalizing their results
because their main purpose was to develop and test the efficacy of a tool for analyzing
the social presence component of educational computer conferences (Discussion
section) rather than to draw conclusions specifically about the samples in question. They
also acknowledged that they were still unclear whether all 12 indicators should be
weighted equally, as well as whether or not there was an optimal level of social presence.
In fact, Garrison mentioned in a round table presentation at the 2008 annual meeting of
36


the American Educational Research Association (AERA) that these indicators might need
to be revisited to ensure that they do not need to be revised (Arbaugh et al., 2008)
Tu and The Social Presence and Privacy Questionnaire
Tu (2002b) criticized early research on social presence (e.g., Short et al., 1976,
and even Gunawardenas 1995 study) in which researchers adopted the same semantic
differential technique that simply had people respond to a bi-polar scale. Tu argued that
this technique is not adequate to measure ones perception of social presence when it
comes to CMC. He also argued that the questionnaire used by Gunawardena and Zittle
(1997) failed to take into consideration different variables cited in the research (e.g.,
recipients, topics, privacy, task, social relationships, communication styles). As a result,
Tu (2002b) developed The Social Presence and Privacy Questionnaire (SPPQ).1 Tu
developed the SPQQ by using parts of Steinfields (1986) CMC attitude instrument and
Witmers (1997) work on privacy.
Tu used a panel of five qualified content experts to test the content validity of the
instrument. However, he did not elaborate on what made these content experts
qualified. He then used 310 inservice and preservice teachers to test the construct
validity. Five factors emerged from the factor analysis: social context, online
communication, interactivity, system privacy, and feelings of privacy; these five factors
accounted for 82.33% of the variance with Cronbachs alpha values ranging from .74 to
.85. Tu acknowledged that online privacy had a weak correlation and therefore might not
need to be included as a dimension of social presence. However, he continued to use
1 In a different article, Tu (2002a) refers to the SPPQ as the CMC Questionnaire;
however, he tends to refer to it more often as the SPPQ and therefore SPPQ will be used
to refer to this instrument.
37


online privacy as a dimension of social presence in later studies (Tu & Corry, 2004; Tu &
Mclsaac, 2002). Despite the strengths of his survey, Tu and Mclsaac (2002) later
determined as the result of a mixed method study, using the SPPQ and a dramaturgy
participant observation qualitative approach, there were more variables that contribute to
social presence (p. 140) than previously thought. Therefore, Tu and Mclsaac concluded
that social presence was more complicated than past research suggested. Appendix A
outlines the new variables identified by Tu and Mclsaac. Specifically, they found that the
social context played a larger role than previously thought.
Among other things, the preceding literature illustrates what other researchers
have pointed outthat there is still little agreement on how to measure social presence
(Lin, 2004; Stein & Wanstreet, 2003). Just as Tu criticized how Gunawardena measured
social presence, others have criticized and modified Tus work (Henninger &
Viswanathan, 2004). Also, while social presence has been presented as a perceptual
construct, Hostetter and Busch (2006) point out that relying solely on questionnaires (i.e.,
self-report data) can cause problems because respondents may be providing socially
desirable answers (p. 9). Further, Kramer, Oh, and Fussell (2006) point out that self-
report data are retroactive and insensitive to changes in presence over the course of an
interaction [or semester] (p. 1). But at the same time, even the scale created by Rourke
et al. (2001a) has been modified by Swan (2003) and later by Hughes, Ventura, and
Dando (2007) for use in their own research.
During the past few years, researchers have focused less on studying social
presence by itselfopting instead to study social presence as one aspect of a CoT As a
result and likely due to the difficulty of coding large samples, these researchers have
38


focused almost predominantly on studying students attitudes toward the Col as a whole
and each of the components of the Col (i.e., social presence, teaching presence, and
cognitive presence). In 2008, a group of researchers came together to develop an
instrument to study the community of inquiry, called the Community of Inquiry
Questionnaire (see Arbaugh et al., 2008; Swan et al., 2008). Table 2.3 lists the part of the
Community of Inquiry Questionnaire used to assess students perceptions of social
presence in a Col (see Appendix A for the entire instrument).
Table 2.3 Social Presence Dimension of the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire
Affective expression
14. Getting to know other course participants gave me a sense of belonging in the
course.
15.1 was able to form distinct impressions of some course participants.
16. Online or web-based communication is an excellent medium for social
interaction.
Open communication
17.1 felt comfortable conversing through the online medium.
18.1 felt comfortable participating in the course discussions.
19.1 felt comfortable interacting with other course participants.
Group cohesion
20.1 felt comfortable disagreeing with other course participants while still
maintaining a sense of trust.
21.1 felt that my point of view was acknowledged by other course participants.
22. Online discussions help me to develop a sense of collaboration
Over five years ago and before the work of Arbaugh et al., Russo and Benson
(2005) argued that researchers need a multifaceted presence instrument, one that
examines presence more than single items and addresses the construct more by evaluating
specific behaviors rather than a global effect (p. 60). And while Arbaugh et al. (2008)
hope that the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire is a step in that direction, as a whole
39


their survey and the research in which it is used for the most part focuses on looking at
the Col as a whole rather than at its parts (e.g., social presence).
In the end, though, the instrument that researchers use largely influences what
they find. Therefore, any study of social presence should at least acknowledge how its
methodology has been influenced by these early pioneers. Despite the varied
methodologies employed and some contradictions, some trends emerge when looking at
the research on social presence. The following section focuses first on the results of
some research on social presence and then on some recent research focused on social
presence in a Col.
Research on Social Presence
Despite the differences previously noted, researchers have identified a number of
pedagogical implicationsin most cases, benefitsof social presence. In the following
sections, the literature on social presence is summarized and synthesized around three
main themes: (a) social presence and student satisfaction, (b) social presence and
interaction, and (c) social presence and student learning.
Social Presence and Student Satisfaction
Over the years, a number of researchers have shown that there is a consistent
relationship between social presence and student satisfaction (Gunawardena, 1995;
Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Hostetter & Busch, 2006; Richardson & Swan, 2003; So &
Brush, 2008). While their conceptualization and methodology differ at times, most
researchers agree that social presence is a predictor of student satisfaction in CMC
environments, which in turn is a key component of online learning. More specifically, in
online learning environments student satisfaction has been connected to student
40


persistence (Levy, 2007; Willging & Johnson, 2004). Levy (2007) has shown that
student satisfaction is a major factor in students decision to complete or drop online
courses (p. 198). Therefore, given the importance of student satisfaction, the following
section highlights a few of the main studies on social presence and student satisfaction.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, a number of researchers began investigating social
presence and computer-mediated communication (CMC) (e.g., Walther, 2002, 2004).
However, Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) is perhaps the earliest, most
frequently cited, and foundational researcher of social presence and learning
environments using CMC. Gunawardena conducted two studies with Globaled
conference participants (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997). The studies
consisted of graduate students from different universities who attended the Spring 1992
and Fall 1993 Globaled computer conferences via a listserv.2 The participants in the
studies filled out questionnaires after they completed the conferences.
Gunawardena (1995) reported that, contrary to popular opinion, CMC could be
perceived as a social medium and that social presence could be cultivated. Further, she
stated that,
although CMC is described as a medium that is low in nonverbal cues and social
context cues, participants in conferences create social presence by projecting their
identities and building online communities. In order to encourage interaction and
collaborative learning, it is important that moderators of computer conferences
promote the creation of conducive learning environments, (p. 163)
Gunawardena and Zittle (1997), working from data collected from participants in the Fall
1993 conference, later reported that social presence was a strong predictor of student
2 It is important to highlight that the majority of the students in these studies completed
the online learning experience (i.e., the Globaled conference) as a component of a face-
to-face course; further, they took part in the conference via a listserv rather than a course
management system like Blackboard, WebCT, or eCollege.
41


satisfaction with computer conferences. They also found that students who felt a stronger
sense of social presence enhanced their socio-emotional expression (e.g., through the use
of emoticons) whereas those with a low sense of social presence did not. Gunawardena
and Zittle concluded that social presence (and as a result student satisfaction) depends on
what instructors and students do rather than simply the characteristic of a CMC medium.
Despite shortcomings of their research (e.g., small sample size, sample selection, course
format) as well as the fact that they caution readers not to generalize their results, the
work of Gunawardena (1995) and Gunawardena and Zittle (1997) is regularly citedand
generalizedas foundational research on social presence and CMC.
Research conducted by Richardson and Swan (2003) is arguably less foundational
than the work of Gunawardena and Zittle but methodologically more sound. Richardson
and Swan (2003) conducted a study to investigate the relationship between students
perception of social presence, perceived learning, and satisfaction with their instruction.
Their study consisted of 97 participants taking online courses at Empire State College, a
site purposefully chosen because of its nontraditional online program. Almost half of the
students in the sample stated that it was their first online course. Richardson and Swan
developed a survey based on Gunawardena and Zittles (1997) survey and used a
multiple regression to analyze the data collected from the survey.
Richardson and Swan (2003) found three things from their study. First, they found
that students with higher perceived social presence scores perceived they learned more
than students with lower scores, thus indicating that there is a relationship between
students perceived social presence and students perceived learning (p. 77). Second,
they found a link between student satisfaction with their instructor and perceived
42


learningwhich researchers have been finding in face-to-face settings for years. Third,
they found that students with high social presence scores were highly satisfied with their
instructor (p. 73). However, it is important to note that they did not find a relationship
between age or amount of college experience and social presence. Further, they
concluded that online learners found the social presence of faculty and students to be an
integral aspect of an online course.
Other researchers (Hostetter & Busch, 2006; Russo & Benson, 2005; So & Brush,
2008) have found a relationship between social presence and student satisfaction in
online learning environments as well. In fact, student satisfaction is the most consistent
finding across all studies of social presence and CMC.
However, like most findings on social presence, there always seems to be at least
one study that contradicts the findings of others. For instance, Joo, Lim, & Kim (2011)
recently sought to investigate the structural relationships between perceived level of
presence, perceived usefulness and ease of online tools, and learner satisfaction and
persistence at a South Korean online university (p. 1654). They administered two
different surveys resulting in 709 responses. While they found teaching presence had a
significant effect on both social presence and cognitive presence (which suggests how a
course is designed and facilitated effects social presence), they also found that contrary to
previous studies, social presence was not a significant predictor of satisfaction. Further
research though is needed to see if this study is an outlier or if perhaps students
perceptions of social presence and its relationship to satisfaction is changing.
While student satisfaction does not equal student learning, it is a necessary
component of a successful learning environment. Further, online learning has a history of
43


having a higher dropout rate than face-to-face courses (Levy, 2007) as well as being
characterized as involving more work than traditional face-to-face courses. Thus, it is
imperative for online instructors to recognize the important role student satisfaction can
play in online learning environments. If students are not satisfied, they will presumably
not log-on to their online course and therefore will not successfully complete their online
course or learn the required material. Another important component to student learning
online is interaction. The following section will address the relationship between
interaction and social presence.
Social Presence and Interaction
Interaction is a key component of any learning environment (Dunlap, Sobel, &
Sands, 2007). Interaction and online learning has specifically received a great deal of
attention over the years (Anderson, 2006; Anderson & Garrison, 1998; Mclsaac, Blocher,
Mahes, & Vrasidas, 1999; Moore, 1989; Moore & Kearsely, 2005; Vrasidas & Glass,
2002; Wagner, 1994). Interaction has been defined in a number of ways. According to
Wagner (1994), interaction is simply reciprocal events that require at least two objects
and two actions. Interactions occur when these objects and events mutually influence one
another (p. 8). Interactionthat is, reciprocal eventscan occur in many different
forms in an online environment.
Moore (1989) was the first to identify three main types of interaction in distance
education: (a) learner-to-content interaction, (b) learner-to-instructor interaction, (c) and
learner-to-1 earner interaction. Later researchers identified additional types of interaction
found in online learning environments: (a) teacher-to-teacher, (b) teacher-to-content, (c)
content-to-content, (d) leamer-to-technology, and (e) teacher-to-technology (Anderson,
44


2003, 2006; Anderson & Kuskis, 2007; Shank, 2004). Each of these is an important
component of any online learning environment. Furthermore, each of these types of
interaction can influence social presence. However, learner-to-instructor and learner-to-
learner interaction are the most germane; of the two, learner-to-1 earner interaction has
received the most attention.
Researchers have shown that leamer-to-leamer interaction is a critical component
in online learning (Richardson & Swan, 2003). Learner-to-learner interaction is
motivating and stimulating for students (Moore & Kearsley, 2005). Further, social
presence is directly related to leamer-to4earner interaction (Tu, 2000). Students are
perceived as being there as a result of their online interactions with their peers; if they do
not interact with their peers and instructors, they are not perceived as being there or
connecting with their peers or instructors. Therefore, in this section, I will summarize a
few key studies about social presence and interaction.
Tu and Mclsaac (2002) conducted a mixed methods study with 43 graduate
students in an online course. They found that social presence influences online
interaction. More specifically, they found that social presence is necessary for social
interaction. However, they also found that the quantity or frequency of participation
online did not directly relate to social presence. That is, interacting more did not
necessarily increase ones social presence. Finally, they found that group size in
synchronous discussions influenced how much students interacted with others online.
As a result of their study, Tu and Mclsaac (2002) argued that students need to
establish trust before attaining a higher level of social presence (p. 142). They also
found that informality helped increase social presence. But most importantly, they
45


concluded that it is not the quantity but the quality of interactions online that make the
difference.
Like Tu and Mclsaac, Swan and Shih (2005) also discovered some interesting
relationships between social presence and interaction. The participants in their study
came from four online graduate educational technology courses; 51 students completed
an online questionnaire [based on Richardson and Swans (2003) previous survey that
was based on the instrument developed by Gunawardena and Zittle], After the survey was
completed, the 5 students with the highest and the 5 students with the lowest social
presence scores were identified, their postings were analyzed, and then they were
interviewed. Content analysis was used to explore the discussion postings using the
indicators developed by Rourke et al. (2001a).
Like Tu and Mclsaac (2002), Swan and Shih found that students who interacted
more in the discussion forums were not necessarily perceived as having the most social
presence; rather, students who were more socially orientated, even if they interacted less
than others, were perceived as having greater social presence. Swan and Shih argued that
this supports the idea that perceived presence is not directly linked to how much one
participates online. Further, they found that students perceiving the most social presence
of others were also the ones who successfully projected their own presence into the
discussions. Swan and Shih concluded that students projected their presence online by
sharing something of themselves with their classmates, by viewing their class as a
community, and by acknowledging and building on the responses of others (p. 124),
rather than simply posting more than others. Therefore, this research suggests that the
quality of online postings matters more than the quantity when it comes to social
46


presence. Finally, unlike earlier research (e.g., Richardson & Swan, 2003), Swan and
Shih found that the age of participants did matter. More specifically, they found that
younger students were more comfortable with online discussions than older students and
that students over the age of 45 did not bond well with other (younger) students (p. 123).
Even so, these differences could be due to the different samples; further, findings such as
these are likely to diminish over time, as more and more people of all ages spend time
online.
It is very possible that the occurrence of contradictory findings, like these about
age and social presence, arise because researchers have studied social presence in very
different contexts, with very different course formats, and very different groups of
students and instructors. Tu and Mclsaac (2002) have already shown the important role
social context plays in social presence. Therefore, while age might diminish as a
significant variable over time, course format (e.g., hybrid vs. predominantly
asynchronous vs. predominantly synchronous), length of term, subject of study, and
students experience with online courses might continue to influence how social presence
is perceived, maintained, and enhanced in online learning environments.
Perhaps the most important research conducted on social presence has focused on
student learning. But just like previous research, researchers studying social presence
and student learning have found mixed and contradictory results.
Social Presence and Student Learning
Very few researchers have investigated the relationship of social presence and
student learning. That is, of the over 100 studies conducted on social presence, less than a
handful of studies have focused on student learning (Picciano, 2002; Wise et al., 2004)
47


and the majority that have only focused on perceived learning (e.g., Richardson & Swan,
2003). This is not, though, simply a trend restricted to research on social presence and
online learning. Tallent-Runnels et al. (2006) have shown that generally speaking, few
studies actually focus on instruction and learning online (p. 116). This is most likely due
to the difficulty of measuring student learning (Fryshman, 2008). Because students are
complex creatures with vastly different backgrounds and experiences, it is often difficult
to determine what was learned specifically as the result of what happened in a given
course. As a result, most researchers who do focus on student learning actually
operationalize it as student performance on course assessments. This is true of Picciano
(2002) and Wise et al. (2004), the two researchers who have studied social presence and
student learning.
Picciano (2002) was one of the first to investigate social presence and student
learning. He was interested specifically in the relationship between social presence,
student interaction and performance, and student perceptions of social presence and
actual participation. Participants in Piccianos study came from one completely online
asynchronous graduate education course. The 23 participants in the study were teachers
seeking a school administrator certification for the state of New York; they all had at
least five years teaching experience and a MA (Picciano, 2002). Only eight of the 23
students had taken an online course before. It is also important to note that the World
Trade Center was attacked during week two of this course; the attack on the World Trade
Center had a great impact on people across the worldbut especially in New York.
Therefore, it is likely that the emotional distress felt by many Americans during this time
48


could have impacted the results of this study and the social presence of the participants
online.
Picciano (2002) collected three different types of data. First, he calculated how
often students participated in the course discussions. However, interestingly, he chose
not to count one line me too postings and social messages (p. 29); instead he wanted
to focus on substantive comments. Given the importance me too postings and
social comments can play in social presence, this decision likely skewed the results.
He also administered a student satisfaction surveyquestions coming from both the
Inventory of Presence Questionnaire developed by the Presence Research Working
Group and Tus Social Presence and Privacy Questionnaire (SPPQ). Then, finally, he
collected scores from an exam and a written assignment. The exam was a multiple-choice
exam designed to explore 13 issues the course focused on. The written assignment was a
case study. Picciano created three groupslow, moderate, and highof student
interaction, and then three groups of social presence (based on the survey). He then
calculated correlations of student interaction and the scores on the exam and the written
assignment as well as social presence and the performance on the exam and the written
assignment. Due to sample size, Picciano only used basic descriptive statistics (i.e.,
means and correlations) to analyze his data.
Regarding student perceptions of interaction and learning, Picciano (2002) found
that there is a strong, positive relationship between student perceptions of their
interaction in the course and their perceptions of the quality and quantity of their
learning (p. 28). Further, there was a positive relationship between student perceptions
of interaction, social presence, and their performance. However, he found that perceived
49


performance and actual performance differed. To investigate actual student interaction
and performance, he found that actual student interaction had no relationship to the
performance on the exam but did have a relationship to the written assignment for the
highly interactive group. Finally, regarding social presence and performance, he found a
positive statistical relationship between social presence and the written assignment
(.5467) but not a positive statistically significant relationship between social presence and
the performance on the exam (-.3570).
Wise et al. (2004) also investigated student learning and social presence. Unlike
Picciano (2002), Wise et al. used an experimental research design that looked at how
social presence is related to learning in self-paced, one-to-one mentoring-supported,
online courses. That is, rather than using one online course that relies heavily on
student-to-student discussions, Wise et al. focused on self-paced online courses designed
for teacher professional development. These were self-paced courses typically completed
in a 12 week time period. However, participants in this study had to complete them in 6
weeks because it was an assignment for another course they were taking.
Twenty students taking a graduate course called Elementary and Secondary
School Curriculum took part in the study; half of the participants had teaching experience
and half did not. The students with teaching experience were randomly assigned to either
a high or low social presence condition; the students without teaching experience were
evenly distributed among the conditions (Wise et al.). For each condition, two instructors
were randomly assigned to five students (p. 255). The instructors had been trained on
social presence cueswhich included the indicators developed by Rourke et al. (2001);
50


they varied the social presence cues they used based on the condition they were assigned
to.
The researchers physically went to students courses to solicit their participation.
Students then completed a pre-assessment survey which focused on demographics and
learning intentions. Then after the course was over, they had students complete a survey.
They did not include the survey in their article, and they never explicitly said how the
survey was constructed. They calculated message length as well as level of student social
presence by analyzing student messages with a type of content analysis. Then the final
assignment of the coursewhich was a lesson plan on integrating technologywas
assessed by two raters using a rubric.
They found that students in the high social presence condition replied with
messages twice as long as those of students in the low social presence condition. Further,
students in the high social presence condition tended to show a higher degree of social
presence in the content of their messages to the instructors. However, Wise et al. did not
find a statistically significant relationship between how students performed on the final
assignment of the course and the social presence condition. Further, unlike previous
studies, they did not find a significant effect between the condition and student
satisfaction or the condition and perceived learning. These findings led Wise et al.
(2004) to conclude the following:
Social presence impacts the atmosphere of the course as indexed by the
perceptions of the instructor and the nature of the interaction, but there is no
identifiable effect on the overall impact of the course as indexed by learning or
perceived learning, engagement, or satisfaction, (p. 262)
51


While Wise et al. try to make sense of their results, they never acknowledge how certain
issuessuch as unique course format, limited time frame, lack of other students (to name
just a few)might have skewed their results.
While Picciano (2002) and Wise et al. (2004) directly investigated social presence
and student learning (which they operationalize as student performance on specific
assignments), other researchers have investigated social presence and student perceived
learning. For instance, as mentioned earlier, Richardson and Swan (2003) conducted a
study in which they found that students who were identified with higher social presence
perceived they learned more than those with lower social presence. They also found a
relationship between student satisfaction with their instructor and perceived learning.
Russo and Benson (2005) also found a statistically significant relationship between
student perceptions of their own presence and the points they earned in a class. However,
Hostetter and Busch (2006) did not find a relationship between students perception of
presence and learning outcomes. Inconsistencies such as these, as well as those between
Picciano and Wise et al., suggest that the findings on social presence and student learning
are inconclusive.
Despite previous researchers efforts like those just described, researchers such as
Rourke and Kanuka (2009) have been critical of research on social presence and the Col
as a whole for not spending enough time showing whether or not teaching presence and
social presence actually influence student learning. But despite some of the
inconsistences reported so far, research suggests social presence plays an important role
in online courses.
52


Establishing and Maintaining Social Presence
Despite some mixed results, social presence appears to be related to student
satisfaction, student interaction online, students sense of community, as well as possibly
student learning. Therefore, as the number of students taking courses online increases
each year (Allen & Seaman, 2010), it is critical to better understand how social presence
is established and maintained in online learning environments.
The categories and indicators developed by Rourke et al. (2001a) and later
expanded upon by Swan (2003) can be seen as guidelines for establishing social
presence. For instance, if the expression of emotions, the use of humor, or self-disclosure
are indicators of social presence, then it is reasonable to expect that if one expresses his
or her emotions more, uses humor, and self-discloses information then he or she will be
able to establish social presence. Further, research suggests (e.g., Wise et al., 2004) that
social presence behaviors engender more social presence. Thus, indicators like those
listed in Table 2.4 should then be seen as guidelines for establishing social presence.
Table 2.4 Strategies to establish and develop social presence
Categories Indicators Strategies
Affective Emotions Express emotions
Humor Use humor
Self-disclosure Self-disclose personal information
Value Express personal values
Paralanguage Use features of text, like emoticons to express emotion
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Table 2.4 (cont.)
Cohesive Greetings & salutations Vocatives Group reference Social sharing Self-reflection Greet other students Address students by name Use inclusive pronouns like we, and us Share personal information Reflect on the course openly
Interactive Acknowledgement Refer directly to others postings
Disagreement Agree or disagree with others postings
Approval Express approval
Invitation Ask questions
Personal advice Offer advice to peers
Note. From Developing Social Presence in Online Course Discussions, by K. Swan,
2003, in S. Naidu (Ed.), Learning and Teaching with Technology: Principles and
Practices (pp. 147-164). London: Kogan Page.
Synthesizing past literature (which included the work of Rourke et al.), Aragon
(2003) identified a similar list of strategies on how to establish social presence. Aragon
identified three components to establishing social presence online: (a) the role of course
design, (b) the role of the instructor, and (c) the role of the participants (see Table 2.5).
Aragons three components to establishing social presence are similar to the three types
of presencesocial presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presenceof the Col
framework developed by Garrison et al. (2000). Aragons strategies for instructors
though are not simply what Garrison et al. would call teaching presence strategies in
the Col framework.
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Table 2.5 Strategies to Establish and Maintain Social Presence
Course Design Instructors Participants
Develop welcome Contribute to discussion Contribute to discussion
messages boards boards
Include student profiles Promptly answer email Promptly answer email
Incorporate audio Provide frequent feedback Strike up a conversation
Limit class size Strike up a conversation Share personal stories and experiences
Structure collaborative Share personal stories &
learning activities experiences Use humor
Use humor Use emoticons
Use emoticons Use appropriate titles
Address students by name
Allow students options for addressing the instructor
Note. From Creating Social Presence in Online Environments, by S. R. Aragon,
2003, in, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 100, (pp. 57-68).
Certain strategies such as sharing personal experiences and stories are more of a
type of social presence strategy used by instructors. This is important because the Col
traditionally does not differentiate between how a student and how an instructor
establishes his or her social presence. Swan and Shih (2005) though pointed out that there
are some differences between the two. And Nippard and Murphy (2007), who sought to
investigate how teachers and students manifest social presence in synchronous web-based
secondary classrooms, found that in their study students and instructors did in fact engage
in different social presence behaviors.
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Some question whether there may be an optimal level of social presence (Garrison
& Anderson, 2003; Wise et al., 2004). For instance, Garrison and Anderson posit that too
little social presence can prevent a learning community from forming but too much social
presence may reduce student learning by discouraging critical discourse (Garrison &
Anderson, 2003). Conjectures such as these might suggest that while it might be
important to focus on establishing social presence early in a course, it might be less
important later on in the course. Dunlap and Lowenthal (2010), though, have argued
based on their experience that it is important to continue to maintain social presence
throughout the duration of an online course.
Mixed results arise, though, on how social presence is maintained throughout the
duration of a course. For instance, the research of Rourke et al. (2001a) suggests that
purely social communication decreases over time. However, Stacey (2002) later found in
her study that purely social communication did not decrease but actually increased over
time; as a result, she concluded that social relationships require continuation of social
presence factors through a much longer period, as one semester is only the beginning of
group formation online (p. 150). But then to confuse matters even more, Swan (2003)
later found that although the use of affective indicators mirrored the general flow of the
course discussions as the course progressed, cohesive indicators declined in importance,
while the importance of interactive indicators increased (pp. 161-162). This possibly
suggests that different types of social presence behaviors serve different functions and
vary across time. For instance, Lomicka and Lord (2007)who studied how foreign
language graduate students established and maintained social presence through weekly
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journal activitiesfound that the type of task influenced the type of presence used by
students.
Some Gaps in the Literature
Despite the popularity of social presence research, a number of gaps in the
literature remain. As researchers and practitioners continue to rely on theories and
research on social presence to influence their practice, it is imperative to address some of
these gaps. In the following section, I will briefly describe a few of these gaps that future
research needs to address.
First, as indicated throughout this chapter, previous researchers have found mixed
and contradictory results. For instance, some studies have found a strong relationship
between student satisfaction and social presence (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena &
Zittle, 1997; Richardson & Swan, 2003), but other studies have not (Joo, Lim, & Kim,
2011; Wise et al., 2004). Some studies have found a relationship between social presence
and student performance (whether perceived or actual) (Picciano, 2002; Richardson &
Swan, 2003; Russon & Benson, 2004) while others have not (Hostetter & Busch, 2006;
Wise et al., 2004). Finally, some studies have found that social presence changes over
time (Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003) while others have not (Lomicka & Lord, 2007;
Stacey, 2002). Recently, Akyol, Vaughan, and Garrison (2011) sought to investigate
how time effects the development of a CoF They studied the Col in a 6 week and a 13
week online course. They reported that an independent samples t-test revealed
statistically significant differences between the short and long-term courses on affective
communication . and group cohesion (Akyol et al., p. 235). More specifically and to
their surprisebecause conventional wisdom suggests that more time is needed to
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develop group cohesionthey found that students messages in the 6 week course
included more group cohesion indicators than the students messages in the 13 week
course. At the same time, there were more affective indicators in the 13 week course than
the 6 week course.
Second, conclusions are drawn and assumptions made about the nature of social
presence from research conducted on vastly different types of online courses. For
instance, researchers have failed to recognize how the socio-cultural context and course
format effects social presence. For instance, researchers (e.g., Tu, 2001; Wise et al.,
2004) have conducted a number of studies on social presence in which the teacher had
face-to-face meetings with students; meetings like these will have likely impacted the
development and perception of social presence. This is not to suggest that meeting face-
to-face with online students is a poor decision, but rather that it can influence students
perceptions and therefore should only be compared to other instances where faculty meet
face-to-face with their students.
In other cases, researchers have studied social presence in non-traditional courses.
For instance, Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) studied social presence
in a computer conference administered through a listserv, Tu (2001; 2002a) studied social
presence in face-to-face courses using CMC as well as televised courses, and Wise et al.
(2004) studied social presence in six week self-paced courses. While it is important to
understand how social presence is developed and maintained in these nontraditional types
of online courses, it is even more important to recognize how social presence might
change across a variety of different online learning formats and contexts. For instance,
Lowenthal, Wilson, and Parrish (2009) have argued about the importance context plays in
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online learning. And both Arbaugh, Bangert, and Cleveland-Innes (2010) and Gorsky,
Caspi, Antonovsky, Blau, and Mansur (2010) have recently found some interesting
differences in students perceptions of the Col across academic disciplines.
Third, the only relationship found between social presence and actual student
learning (as opposed to perceived student learning) comes from a study that was
conducted in New York City during the attack on the World Trade Center (Picciano,
2002); there is reason to believe that a tragic event such as this could have skewed the
results. Further, Picciano (2002) only found a statistical relationship with one of his
measures of student learning and social presence. However, on the other handas
already mentioneda number of researchers (Picciano, 2002; Richardson & Swan, 2003;
Russon & Benson, 2004) have found a relationship between social presence and
perceived learning. Differences and issues like this illustrate that questions remain about
the relationship of student learningboth actual and perceivedand social presence.
Fourth, and finally, the majority of past research on social presence has heavily
relied on survey data to study social presence. Studying students perceptions of social
presence is important. However, relying only on self-report data can be problematic
because students might be simply providing socially desirable answers (Hostetter &
Busch, 2006, p. 9). Further, self-report data tend to be collected at one period during a
semester and therefore cannot show change over time (Kramer, Oh, & Fussell, 2006).
Unfortunately, though, compared to studies using only self-report data, few researchers
(e.g., Delfino & Manca, 2007; Hughes et al., 2007; Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003)
have actually analyzed online discussions when studying social presence. But if
researchers want to understand better how social presence develops, is maintained, and
59


changes over a course, they must begin to look at what is said and done in threaded
discussionsthe primary avenue for interaction.
Chapter Summary
Researchers and practitioners alike seem fascinated by the concept of social
presence. I have found over a 100 articles on the subject. However, like most research on
online learning (Bernard et al, 2004; Tallent-Runnels, 2006), research on social presence
and online learning is of mixed quality. Even though initial research suggests that social
presence is related to student satisfaction, student interaction, and student learning, many
questions remain. In the next chapter, Chapter 3,1 will outline the methods used for this
study. Then in Chapter 4,1 go over the results of the study and I conclude in Chapter 5
with a discussion of the results.
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CHAPTER 3
METHOD
The purpose of this study is to explore the phenomena of social presence in an
online graduate level education course at the University of Colorado Denver. To
accomplish this, I utilized a mixed research methods approach that employed both
quantitative and qualitative methods to understand better social presence. In the following
chapter, I elaborate on the methods used for this study.
Research Questions
Research questions help narrow the focus of a study by providing a framework,
setting boundaries, and giving rise to the type of data that will be collected (Cresswell &
Plano Clark, 2007). The following research question guided this exploratory study: How
does social presence manifest in an asynchronous, online graduate-education course?
Research Design
Mixed methods research has become popular over the past few years (Leech &
Onwuegbuzie, 2006). Around the same time, researchers of CMC (e.g., Goldman,
Crosby, Swan, & Shea, 2005; Gunawardena, Lowe, & Anderson, 1997; Hiltz & Arbaugh,
2003) began arguing about the importance of using multiple methods when studying the
complexity of asynchronous learning environments. However, to date the majority of
research on social presence has utilized either a quantitative or qualitative approach,
which conceivably limits researchers interpretation of the data and understanding of the
phenomenon. I utilized a mixed methods research design in this study. The purpose of
using a mixed methods approach was to facilitate the richness of data and expand the
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interpretation of the findings (Collins, Onwuegbuzie, & Sutton, 2006; Onwuegbuzie &
Leech, 2004), as well as to answer the research question that guided this study.
Sample
Researchers differentiate between sampling schemes and sampling designs
(Onwuegbuzie & Collins, 2007; Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2007b). Thus, I elaborate below
on the sampling scheme and the sampling design used in this study.
Sampling Scheme
The goal of this study was to gain insights into a phenomenon (i.e., social
presence) rather than to generalize findings to a population. In situations like these,
Onwuegbuzie and Collins (2007) argue that a purposeful sample should be used.
Therefore, a non-random (non-probability) criterion sampling scheme was used in this
study.
A section of EDLI 7210 Educational Policy Making for a Democratic Society
which was taught in the spring of 2007 at the University of Colorado Denverwas
identified as an appropriate sample for this study. This course was selected for a number
of reasons. First, this course was a fully online course. While it is helpful to study social
presence in hybrid or televised courses, the focus of this study is on the nature of social
presence in fully online courses. Second, this course was an asynchronous, instructor-
facilitated, online coursethe most popular type of online course in higher education.
And third, this was an education course. Recognizing that CMC is always socially
situated (Herring, 2004), the goal of this study was to study social presence in an
education settinglike the majority of previous research on social presence (Lowenthal,
Lowenthal, & White, 2009).
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Nineteen graduate students were enrolled in the course. The following course
description describes the basic focus of the course:
This course examines the role and impact of policy and policy processes in
educational organizations. Models will be developed to analyze the nature of
policy, how policy processes work, conceptualizations of and research on these,
and their implications for improving educational practices to benefit student
learning and other organizational behaviors and outcomes. The study of policy
and policy processes will be facilitated by several activities that will familiarize
you with various perspectives on, models of, and research about the initiation of
policy issues, the processes of implementation and evaluation, and their outcomes
and effects. Collaboration, group work, and research are emphasized.
The learning objectives of the course are:
1. To read critically a variety of works on policy-making processes and outcomes
2. To develop skills as a policy analyst and advocate
3. To develop appreciation for and use of various policy models, policy research,
and policy effects
The following are the main assignments of the course (see Table 3.1 for a description of
each assignment):
Reading logs
A policy critique
An observation
A book review
A personal-professional task
A small-group project
Online interactivity and quality of work.
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Table 3.1 Assignment Descriptions
Individual and Group Assignments_________________________________________________
Individual Assignments
Policy Critique (8.47% 11.8% of course grade): Write a five page (or less) double-
spaced paper assessing the goals (intended), trends, conditions, projections,
alternatives relative to a local, regional, or state educational policy.
Observation (8.47% 11.8% of course grade): First observe and analyze a policy
process (school board meeting, city: council, state legislature, county commission).
Then write a 2-3 page analysis of their observation.
Book Review (8.47% 11.8% of course grade): Select a book related to policy studies
and write a 3-5 page review.
Online Interactivity and Quality of Work (16.95% of course grade): Login regularly,
take part in threaded discussions, and produce quality work.
Group Assignments
Reading Logs (15.25% of course grade): Discuss readings in small groups Then write
nine reading logs summarizing the readings and posing questions for the instructor.
Personal-Professional Task (12.7% of course grade): In a group of two, take some
risk and discuss deeply important individual personal-professional goals. Analyze
trends that facilitate or impede each others goal achievement. Then write a 3-5 page
paper summarizing his or her partners self analysis and plan.
Small-Group Project (23.73% of course grade): Working in small groups of 4-5
students, study a policy at the local, state, or national level. Then write a 10-15 page
double-spaced group paper employing a qualitative approach to collecting data that
informs their critical analysis of the policy.___________________________________
In addition to the assignments, a number of different types of discussions were
conducted in the course. The most active discussions were the General Discussion
Forum, Reading Groups, Reading Log Discussion Forum, Pairs, and finally
Project Groups (which everyone but the General Discussion Forum was directly tied
to key assignments).
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Sampling Design
Social presence researchers who study online course discussions historically only
analyze a small sample of course discussions. For instance, Rourke et al. (2001a) only
analyzed one week of discussions in two different courses in their foundational study,
which consisted of 134 messages or 30,392 words. Swan (2003) analyzed 235 posts with
an average number of words per posting at 82.4 (which she explained was 10% of the
entire courses discussions). And then Hughes et al. (2007) analyzed three different groups
of students with a total of 974 messages or 63,655 words.
For this study, I chose to analyze every threaded discussion in the course using
content analysis, which consisted of 1,822 posts or 160,091 words (see Table 3.2). Then
based on the results of the content analysis, two specific threaded discussions (which
span multiple weeks of the class) were identifiedone with the highest social presence
indicators (which was Pair 9) and one with the lowest social presence indicators (which
was Reading Group E)and analyzed using constant comparison analysis in an effort to
explore better the phenomenon of social presence. It is important to note that for the
purpose of this study, all discussion forums in the course are referred to as threaded
discussionsregardless of their purpose, the level of dialogue, or the amount of
interaction between the instructor and the students.
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Table 3.2 Threaded Discussions Raw Data*
Discussion Name # of Participants # of Posts # of Words
Virtual Office 7 44 2560
GeneralSyllabus 14 48 3294
GeneralGroup s 6 14 639
GeneralIndependent Work 3 3 155
GeneralIndividual Work 2 2 84
Adult Learning Discussion Forum Your Learning 7 12 456
Adult Learning Discussion Forum Questionnaire #1 3 3 221
A: Reading Group A 4 125 7828
B: Reading Group B 5 132 11677
C: Reading Group C 4 95 8452
D: Reading Group D 4 109 12562
E: Reading Group E 5 40 5235
F: Reading Group F 4 106 10916
G: Reading Group G 5 103 8116
Pair 1 3 32 2028
Pair 2 3 40 6222
Pair 3 3 45 3000
Pair 4+ 4 6 248
Pair 5 3 30 2232
Pair 6 3 28 1453
Pair 7 3 26 2687
Pair 8 3 21 3658
Pair 9 3 15 2909
Pair 10 2 22 2129
Plus Delta Week2 8 13 866
Plus Delta Week 3 8 22 2375
Plus Delta Week 4 2 2 299
Plus Delta Week 5 2 2 109
Plus Delta Week 6 3 3 234
Project Group 1 5 109 12673
Project Group 2 5 180 15322
Project Group 3 5 138 8404
Project Group 4 5 113 6791
Project Group 5 4 126 12380
Reading Log 1 5 12 1364
Reading Log 3 1 1 513
Total 156 1822 160,091
*Note. The discussion names were copied exactly as they were worded in the online
course. If a discussion did not have any posts (e.g., Reading Log 2), it was not listed
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Data Collection
The data for this study were collected from the asynchronous threaded discussions
from an online course taught in eCollegea learning management system used at the
University of Colorado Denver. While the course was taught in 2007, an archived copy
of the course is stored in eCollege. Archived copies of course discussions, like these,
provide readily accessible records of the evolution of social relationships in online
classes (Goldman, Crosby, Swan, & Shea, 2005, p. 109). The course discussions were
copied from eCollege to Microsoft Word; each discussion was saved as its own file.
Student names were replaced with pseudonyms, and the files were imported into NVivo
8.
Data Analysis
Initially when researchers began studying online discussions, they focused on the
frequency of participation (Henri, 1992). In fact, researchers have only relatively recently
begun to move beyond the basics (e.g., frequency of student participation, the level of
interaction, and message length) to focus instead on studying the content of messages
online (Pena-Shaff & Nicholls, 2004). When researchers began focusing on analyzing
the content of messages, they turned to content analysis (De Wever, Schellens, Valcke, &
Keer, 2006). In this study, though, I used three types of analysis to analyze the data: (a)
word count, (b) content analysis, and (c) constant comparison analysis (Leech &
Onwuegbuzie, 2007; see Table 3.3).
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Table 3.3 Overview of Data Analysis
Research Question: How does social presence manifest in a graduate education asynchronous online course?
Data Analysis Type of Data Purpose of Results
Word Count (Quantitative) All course discussions Explore the frequency of top words used
Content Analysis (Quantitative) All course discussions Explore the presence and frequency of categories and indicators of social
presence.
Constant Comparative Analysis (Qualitative) One discussion thread with high social presence & one with low social presence Identify codes, groups, and themes in the data missed by content analysis.
Word Count
Traditionally, word count involves identifying deductively a word or words from
the literature on a subject or inductively identifying from the data specific words that
seem out of place or hold special meaning and then counting the frequency of these
words. For the purpose of this study, word count was used solely as a way to initially
explore the data primarily by looking for the frequency of and more importantly the type
of words used in the online discussions. NVivo 8 can quickly and efficiently calculate
word counts.
Word count is an effective initial way to analyze data by exploring the occurrence
of words in a data set. The assumption with word counts, according to Leech and
Onwuegbuzie (2007), is that more important and significant words for the person will be
used more often (p. 568). However, it is important to acknowledge that word count has
some limitations (e.g., it can decontextualize a word and its meaning) (Leech &
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Onwuegbuzie). Therefore, word count should not be used as the only method to analyze
data. And for this study, it was used solely as an initial method to identify if certain types
of words (e.g., student names or greetings and salutations which are indicators of social
presence) were used more than others.
Content Analysis
In the social sciences, content analysis has been the leading method used by
researchers to analyze text (Carley, 1993). Content analysis is understood and defined in
a number of different ways. For instance, Berelson (1952) defined it as a research
technique for the objective, systematic, quantitative description of the manifest content of
communication (p. 519). But then Holsti (1969) defined it as any technique for making
inferences by objectively and systematically identifying specified characteristics of
messages (p. 14). Finally, Carley (1993) explains that content analysis focuses on the
frequency with which words or concepts occur in texts or across texts (p. 81).
Regardless of how one defines it, the purpose of content analysis is to reveal
information that is not situated at the surface of the transcripts (De Wever, Schellens,
Valcke, & Van Keer, 2006, p. 7).
For this study, I followed the following five steps identified by Herring (2004):
1. The researcher formulates a research question and/or hypotheses
2. The researcher selects a sample
3. Categories are defined for coding
4. Coders are trained, code the content, and the reliability of their coding is
checked
5. The data collected during the coding process are analyzed and interpreted.
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I turned to the literature at step number three to identify categories for coding. I first
looked at the broad categories of the Col framework developed by Garrison et al. (2000).
Garrison et al. identified three categories of social presencenamely, emotional
expression, open communication, and group cohesion. At that time, they only identified
some possible examples of indicators for each category (see Table 3.4). I then referred to
the work of Rourke et al. (2001a)3 in which Garrison and his colleagues more fully
developed the categories and indicators of social presence.
Table 3.4 Original Social Presence Categories and Example Indicators
Element Category Examples of Indicators
Social Presence Emotional Expression Emotions
Open Communication Risk-free expression
Group Cohesion Encouraging collaboration
Rourke et al. changed the names of the categories from Emotional Expression to
Affective Responses, Open Communication to Interactive Responses, and Group
Cohesion to Cohesive Responses. They also identified specific indicators for each
category of social presence as well as definitions of each indicator (see Table 3.5).
3 Please note that some uncertainty exists regarding the original date of Rourke et al.s
article entitled Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text-based Computer
Conferencing. I personally have a hard copy in which the publication is listed as 1999
and another as 2001. Researchers tend to cite it both ways. I contacted Liam Rourke to
get some clarification but he simply replied that he was not sure but that he thought 2001
might be correct. I reference it as 2001 for the purpose of this study.
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Table 3.5 Rourke et al.s Categories and Indicators of Social Presence
Category Indicators Definition of Indicators
Affective Expression of Conventional expressions of emotion, or
Responses emotions unconventional expressions of emotion,
(originally includes repetitious punctuation,
Emotional Expression) conspicuous capitalization, emoticons
Use of Humor Teasing, cajoling, irony, understatements, sarcasm
Self-Disclosure Presents details of life outside of class, or expresses vulnerability
Interactive Continuing a Thread Using reply feature of software, rather
Responses than starting a new thread
(originally Open Quoting from Other Using software features to quote others
Communication) Messages entire message or cutting and pasting sections of others messages
Referring explicitly Direct references to contents of others
to other messages posts
Asking questions Students ask questions of other students or the moderator
Complimenting, Complimenting others or contents of
expressing appreciation others messages
Expressing Expressing agreement with others or
agreement content of others messages
Cohesive Vocatives Addressing or referring to participants by
Responses name
(originally Group Addresses or refers Addresses the group as we, us, our,
Cohesion) to the group using inclusive pronouns group
Phatics/Salutations Communication that serves a purely social function; greetings, closures
Note. From Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text-based Computer
Conferencing, by L. Rourke, D. R. Garrison, and W. Archer, 2001a, in Journal of
Distance Education, 14.
Swan (2003), however, later made some changes to the list of indicatorsnamely
Swan simplified the interactive indicators but elaborated on the affective indicators (see
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Table 3.6). Finally, Hughes et al. (2007) replicated Rourke et al.s (2001a) work but
apparently were unaware of Swans previous study. They too made some changes to the
indicators of social presence originally developed by Rourke et al. but some that were
different than Swan. Faced with this evolution of social presence indicators (see Table
3.6), I decided to integrate the changes both Swan and Hughes et al. made to the social
presence indicators (see Table 3.7). I used this initial combined list of indicators during
the first training session with one of two coders. During the training sessions, it became
apparent that the list of indicators needed to be amended.
Table 3.6 Evolution of the Indicators of Social Presence
Rourke et al. (2001a) Swan (2003) Hughes et al. (2007)
Categories & Indicators Categories & Indicators Categories & Indicators
Affective Responses Expression of emotions Use of Humor Self-Disclosure Affective Responses Paralanguage Emotion Value Humor Self-Disclosure Affective Expression of emotion Use of Humor Self-Disclosure
Interactive Responses Continuing a Thread Quoting from Other Messages Referring explicitly to other messages Asking questions Complimenting, expressing appreciation Expressing agreement Interactive Responses Acknowledgement Disagreement Approval Invitation Personal Advice Interactive Referring to others messages Asking Questions Complimenting, expressing appreciation Expressing Agreement
Cohesive Responses Vocatives Addresses or refers to the group using inclusive pronouns Phatics / Salutations Cohesive Responses Greetings & Salutations Vocatives Group Reference Social Sharing Self-reflection Cohesive Vocatives Expresses group inclusivity Phatics / Salutations Embracing the Group
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Table 3.7 Swan & Hughes et al. Combined List of Categories and Indicators of
Social Presence
Category & Indicator Definition (Swan) Criteria (Hughes)
Affective Responses
Paralanguage Features of text outside formal syntax used to convey emotion (i.e., emoticons, exaggerated punctuation or spelling)
Emotion Use of descriptive words that Refers directly to an emotion
indicate feelings (i.e., love, sad, or an emoticon. Use of
hate, silly); conventional or capitalization only if
unconventional expression of emotions obviously intended
Value Expressing personal values, beliefs, and attitudes
Humor Use of humorjoking, teasing, Only code if a clear
cajoling, irony, sarcasm, indication that this is meant
understatement to be funny, e.g., extra punctuation or an emoticon
Self-Disclosure Sharing personal information, An expression that may
expressing vulnerability or indicate an emotional state
feelings but does not directly refer to it. Uncertainty, non comprehension
Interactive Responses
Acknowledgement Referring directly to the Explicit or implicit
contents of others messages; recognition that another
quoting from others messages message has been the
agreement motivation for this message
Agreement / Expressing agreement or Expressing agreement with
Disagreement disagreement with others each other or contents of
messages messages
Approval Expressing approval, offering praise, encouragement
Invitation Asking questions or otherwise inviting response. Students ask questions of each other or moderator
Personal Advice Offering specific advice to classmates
Complimenting, Complimenting, expressing Complimenting or showing
expressing appreciation appreciation of each other or
appreciation contents of messages
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Table 3.7 (cont.)
Cohesive Responses
Greetings & Salutations / Phatics Greetings, closures. Communication that serves a purely social function
Vocatives Addressing or referring to classmates by name
Group Reference / inclusivity Referring to the group as we, us, our. Addresses the group as a possessed or as a whole Any reference to the group with a possessive pronoun
Social Sharing Sharing information unrelated to the course Not really about yourself but more of a social
response
Self-reflection Reflection on the course itself, a kind of self-awareness of the
group
Embracing the Group Revealing life outside the group Any expression that lets the group know about the
circumstance of the
author but does not make
author vulnerable
For instance, under the affective category, the indicator of value was eliminated
because it was nearly impossible for two coders to reliably identify value. Further, given
the content of the course, nearly every other discussion posting appeared to have a I
think or I feel. . statement (which were the examples originally provided by Swan).
Under the interactive responses, the indicators of approval and personal advice were
eliminated. Approval was eliminated because of its overlap with complimenting/
expression appreciation and personal advice was difficult to identify thus complicating
reliability. Finally, under the category of cohesive responses, social sharing and self-
reflection were eliminated. Social sharing and embracing the group overlapped and self-
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reflection was difficult to identify. The following coding sheet in Table 3.8 was used for
the content analysis.
Table 3.8 Coding Sheet Used for Content Analysis
Category & Indicator Definition (Swan) Criteria Examples
Affective Responses Paralanguage Features of text (PL) outside formal syntax used to convey emotion (i.e., emoticons, exaggerated punctuation or spelling) Someday ; How awful for you ; Mathcad is definitely NOT stand along software; Absolutely!!!!!
Emotion (EM) Use of descriptive words that indicate feelings (i.e., love, sad, hate, silly); conventional or unconventional expression of emotions Refers directly to an emotion or an emoticon. Use of capitalization only if obviously intended When I make a spelling mistake, I look and feel stupid; I get chills when I think of... I am scared; This is fun; Sorry this is such a lame email; Hope you are OK; I am pleased that
Humor (H) Use of humor joking, teasing, cajoling, irony, sarcasm, understatement Only code if a clear indication that this is meant to be funny, e.g., extra punctuation or an emoticon God forbid leaving your house to go to the library Em useless at computers but will this make me a bad nurse??? Ha Ha ; LOL
Self- Disclosure (SD) Sharing personal information, expressing vulnerability or feelings An expression that may indicate an emotional state but does not directly refer to it; Uncertainty, non- comprehension I sound like an old lady; I am a closet writer; We had a similar problem. Em not quite sure how to . .; This is strange; I dont understand how; I dont know what that means; As usual I am uncertain; Its all too much . .; Website??? Help!!!!
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Table 3.8 (cont.)
Interactive Responses
Acknowledgement Referring directly Explicit or Those old machines
(AK) to the contents of implicit sure were something;
others messages; recognition we won by a landslide
quoting from that another - landslide (next
others messages message has response) So what
agreement; been the youre saying is . .; I
Reference to motivation for thought that too ... For
others posts this message me the question meant.
Agreement / Expressing Expressing Im with you on that; I
Disagreement agreement or agreement with agree; I think what you
(AG) disagreement each other or are saying is right. I
with others contents of think that would be a
messages messages good plan; I think your suggestion is good
Invitation (I) Asking questions Any suggestions?;
or otherwise Would you describe
inviting response. that for me, I am
Students ask unfamiliar with the
questions of each term. Does anybody
other or moderator know . .?
Expressing Showing Showing You make a good
Appreciation (EA) appreciation of appreciation or point; Right on; Good
each other approval of luck as you continue to
each other or learn
contents of I like your briefing
messages or paper . .; It was really
complimenting good;
Cohesive Responses
Greetings & Greetings, Hi Mary; Thats it for
Salutations / closures. now, Tom Hi; Hey;
Phatics (GS) Communication that serves a purely social function Bye for now;
Vocatives (V) Addressing or You know, Tamara, .
referring to .; I totally agree with
classmates by you Katherine Sally
name said that. .
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Table 3.8 (cont.)
Cohesive Responses (cont.)
Group Referring to the Any reference to We need to be
Reference / group as we, the group with a educated; Our use of
inclusivity us, our. possessive pronoun the Internet may not be
(GR) Addresses the group as a possessed or as a whole free. We need some ground rules; The task asks us to . .
Revealing life Any expression that The kids are asleep
Embracing outside the group lets the group know now; Im a
the Group that is not about the physiotherapist;
(EG) emotional or expressing vulnerability or feelings. Also that isnt related to the course circumstance of the author Its raining again; Its 4amIm off to bed;
Constant Comparison Analysis
Constant comparison analysis was the final type of analysis conducted on the
threaded discussions. Constant comparison analysisa specific type of comparative
analysisis a general method used in social science research that traces back to the work
of Glaser and Strauss and their development of grounded theory (1967). While
researchers like Krathwohl (2004) and Creswell (1998, 2008) approach constant
comparison analysis from only a grounded theory perspective, it is not restricted to a
grounded theory or inductive approach (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007). Leech and
Onwuegbuzie (2007) explain that constant comparison analysis can be conducted
inductively, deductively, or abductively.
Constant comparison analysis is useful when trying to explore and understand the
big picture of a phenomenon (e.g., social presence). In fact, it is one of the most
commonly used types of qualitative analysis (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007). However,
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researchers of CMC rarely use it to analyze online course discussions, most likely due to
the time involved to conduct this type of analysis. It was used in this study to dig more
deeply into the threaded discussions to understand better the nature of social presence. To
conduct constant comparison analysis, I read the entire threaded discussion and
partitioned each meaningful unit into small chunks. I then labeled each chunk with a code
while constantly comparing new codes with previous ones. I then grouped the codes
together. Once I grouped the codes together, I identified themes that emerged from the
data. Figure 3.1 outlines the steps I took with examples from a previous study I
conducted.
Step 1. Read the discussion post
Hello everyone! I love the educational environments you have created this week. Educators and
students should always be the ones who create our schools. It is inspirational to see so many of you
create from the schools you have been in or are currently in. Thanks for your creativity! Dr. Deb C.
Step 2. Chunk the discussion post into meaningful units
[Hello everyone!] [I love the educational environments you have created this week.] [Educators
and students should always be the ones who create our schools.] [It is inspirational to see so many
of you create from the schools you have been in or are currently in.] [Thanks for your creativity!]
[Dr. Deb C]
Step 3. Code each meaningful unit while constantly comparing new
codes with previous codes
[Hello everyone!] GREETING [I love the educational environments you have created this week.]
POSITIVE FEEDBACK [Educators and students should always be the ones who create our
schools.] ELABORATION / CLARIFICATION [It is inspirational to see so many of you create
from the schools you have been in or are currently in.] POSITIVE FEEDBACK [Thanks for your
creativity!] POSITIVE FEEDBACK [Dr. Deb C] CLOSING REMARK
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Step 4. Make a list of t he codes and group
Codes Grouping of codes
Closing remark Course logistics
Directions Directions
Positive feedback Writing style
Greeting Number of students
Questioning Teacher request
Answering question Colorado law
Elaboration / clarification
Writing style Greetings and
Resource Salutations
Number of students Welcoming
Inclusive language Greeting
Teacher request Closing remark
Colorado law
Faculty seeking feedback Teaching / Facilitation
Empathy Questioning
Welcoming Answering questions
Negotiation Elaboration /
Accommodation clarification
Contact information Positive feedback
Resource
Step 5. Identify themes that emerge from the data (include specific
language from the groups, codes, or data when appropriate)
While RTEOF have to deal with day to day course logistics, such as directions on how to complete
assignments and course expectations, they play more of a role of as a facilitator through the use of
questioning, elaborating/clarijying, and giving positive feedback than as a instructor or giver of
knowledge.
Figure 3.1. Steps followed to complete constant comparison analysis of online
discussions
Reliability and Validity
Reliability and validity are key considerations for any researcher. These two
concepts are intricately connected (Cresswell, 2008). Issues of reliability and validity are
addressed in the following pages.
Reliability
Reliability is essentially the consistency of scores researchers obtain from a
measure (Goodwin, 2001). More specifically, according to Goodwin, interrater
agreement and reliability is the extent to which scores obtained from two or more raters
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(scorers, judges, observers) are consistent (p. 15). The most common method used to
calculate interrater reliability is a percent agreement statistic (Rourke et al., 2001b).
I selected ten percent of the discussions to assess interrater reliability. Two coders
(i.e., me and another researcher) chunked and coded the discussions using content
analysis. One challenge though with interrater reliability is that there is not a consistent
agreed upon level of what must be achieved (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer,
2001b). Past research on social presence (e.g., Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003) was
used as a guide of where interrater reliability should lie.
Following Rourke et al. and Swan, the entire discussion posting was used as the
unit of analysis. As a result, 100% agreement was found between the two coders when
identifying the chunks to code because the learning management system clearly identified
an entire post. After some initial training, the two raters then coded 10% of the
discussions to establish reliability of coding. A percent agreement statistic was calculated
using Holstis (1969) coefficient of reliability for each of the threaded discussions:
Reading Group G: 80%
Pair 6: 78%
Project Group 3: 77%
The overall percent agreement for all of the discussion was 78%, which is an acceptable
level of agreement given past research (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001; Hughes et
al., 2007).
Validity
Validity is a complex concept. Validity has been defined as the trustworthiness
of inferences drawn from data (Eisenhart& Howe, 1992, p. 644). However, over the
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years, researchers understanding of validityand therefore definitions and standards
has evolved (Dellinger & Leech, 2007; Goodwin & Leech, 2003). Further, quantitative
and qualitative researchers tend to understand and deal with validity differently
(Cresswell & Plano Clark, 2007; Dellinger & Leech, 2007).
Historically, quantitative researchers separate validity into content, criterion-
related, and construct validity. Qualitative researchers, on the other hand, historically
describe validity as trustworthiness. A large component of establishing trustworthiness is
developing a sound theoretical framework (Garrison, Cleveland-Innes, Koole, &
Kappelman, 2006, p. 2), as I have tried to do throughout this study. Further, the coding
schemes that were used for this study are based directly in the literature.
Chapter Summary
Researchers have studied social presence in online learning environments for a
number of years now. However, to date, research on social presence suffers from a host
of problemsranging from inconsistent and contradictory findings to strange sampling
decisions. Further, researchers have not been able to demonstrate a consistent
relationship between student learning and social presence. Part of the problem might be
the methodological decisions that researchers have made. Rather than employ a mono-
method approach like the majority of past research, this study employed a mixed methods
approach to studying social presenceutilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods
to understand the complex nature of social presence. In addition, in this study I
specifically focused on how students establish and maintain social presence in a text-
based environment by focusing on what is said in the threaded discussions.
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CHAPTER 4
RESULTS
As described in Chapter 3,1 used a mixed methods research approach to explore
how social presence manifests in an online graduate level education course at the
University of Colorado Denver. More specifically, I was interested in finding out how
users established their social presence through text alone in asynchronous threaded
discussions. In this chapter, I share the results from the word count, content analysis, and
constant comparison analysis I conducted to explore how online learners establish and
maintain their presence in one specific fully online course.
Word Count
I conducted a word count of the threaded discussions to initially explore the data.
I was curious whether certain types of words appeared more frequently than others across
all of the threaded discussions as well as within certain types of threaded discussions as
opposed to others. For example, did certain words appear more in threaded discussions
with a pair of students vs. threaded discussions with small groups of students? Using
Nvivo 8,1 specified the parameters for a word count frequency report.
I first looked at the top 50 words used across all of the threaded discussions (see
Appendix B for a complete list of word count frequencys for each word count
conducted). While I set forth to investigate the top 50 words used across all threaded
discussions, I found that the top 20 words were sufficient to get a basic understanding of
the data. Thus, I only report on the top 20 words in this section (though I have included
the top 50 results in Appendix B).
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Table 4.1 lists the top 20 words used across all of the threaded discussions (see
Figure 4.1 for a visual representation). The word I was used most frequently (4,858
times which represents 4.13% of all the words used) followed next by the word you
(2,186 times; 1.86% of all the words used). The frequency of these words is not that
surprising but the fact that we (which is often used as a sign of group reference and
therefore an indicator of social presence) was used 1,367 times (or 1.16% of all words
used) and ranks fourth overall in all words used is noteworthy. Some other things of
interest are the fact that your which can often be an example of acknowledgement
(i.e., another indicator of social presence) was used 810 times or eighth overall. And
finally, the word policywhich is the focus of the coursewas used 600 times (or 10th
overall) whereas the instructors pseudonym, Bob, was used 566 times (or 14th overall).
Table 4.1 Top 20 Words Used Across All Threaded Discussions
Rank Word Count Percentage (%)
1 I 4858 4.13
2 you 2186 1.86
3 have 1428 1.21
4 we 1367 1.16
5 my 1001 0.85
6 what 948 0.81
7 do 814 0.69
8 your 810 0.69
9 can 730 0.62
10 policy 600 0.51
11 me 595 0.51
12 all 592 0.50
13 about 574 0.49
14 bob 566 0.48
15 so 565 0.48
16 Instructor 564 0.48
17 Think 553 0.47
18 Our 538 0.46
19 Work 494 0.42
20 Would 482 0.41
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can
we
i -
you
our
instructor
allyour
me
>my
have
policy
about
would
work
Figure 4.1. Word cloud of word count results without the discussion headings.
After looking at the frequency of the top 50 words used across all threaded
discussions, I then ran a word count report for each of the main threaded discussions:
Project Groups (see Table 4.2), Pairs (see Table 4.3), and Reading Groups (see Table
4.4). While I and you were still the first and second most used words in each of the
main threaded discussions, Figure 4.1 illustrates that we and your (two possible
social presence indicators) show up in the top 20 across all three of these threaded
discussions and our (which is also a possible social presence indicator) shows up across
two of the threaded discussionsnamely, the Project Groups and the Pairs threaded
discussions. Each of these words according to the coding sheet (which was discussed in
Chapter 3) and the literature in general (see Chapter 2) are possible indicators of group
reference and acknowledgement and therefore considered to be indicators of social
presence. I mention possible because in this case word count does not take into
consideration the context in which a given word is used; for instance, we could be
referring to we Americans or we the class.
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However, I found it interesting, though not necessarily surprising, that the word
we and to a smaller degree our (i.e., group reference) show up more in specific types
of small-group discussions where the purpose of the discussion is on collaborating on a
class project together as compared to reading groups (which are also small-group
threaded discussions but one with a different purpose). This suggests that the purpose of a
threaded discussion might influence the degree to which its participants employ certain
types of behaviors (i.e., the things referred to later in this chapter as indicators of social
presence) to establish and maintain their social presence. Once I had a basic feel for the
data, I then conducted a content analysis, which I elaborate on in the next section.
Project Groups _______________Pairs_________ Reading Groups
Rank Word Count % Word Count 0/ /o Word Count 0/ /o
1 I 1674 4.08 I 960 4.87 I 1784 3.79
2 you 729 1.78 you 438 2.22 you 802 1.70
3 we 678 1.65 my 339 1.72 have 532 1.13
4 have 497 1.21 have 291 1.48 we 416 0.88
5 what 387 0.94 we 209 1.06 what 358 0.76
6 do 267 0.65 your 189 0.96 do 348 0.74
7 can 261 0.64 me 148 0.75 policy 344 0.73
8 your 258 0.63 what 145 0.74 my 328 0.70
9 our 251 0.61 do 130 0.66 can 297 0.63
10 all 241 0.59 work 123 0.62 reading 293 0.62
11 think 221 0.54 about 119 0.60 your 283 0.60
12 my 215 0.52 goals 116 0.59 one 255 0.54
13 so 214 0.52 can 110 0.56 about 242 0.51
14 data 202 0.49 our 102 0.52 all 231 0.49
15 policy 193 0.47 how 100 0.51 think 227 0.48
16 would 184 0.45 school 97 0.49 me 226 0.48
17 some 181 0.44 teachers 85 0.43 so 225 0.48
18 need 176 0.43 goal 84 0.43 instructor 222 0.47
19 me 173 0.42 some 82 0.42 bob 221 0.47
20 about 171 0.42 would 82 0.42 summary 196 0.42
Figure 4.2. Frequency of possible social presence indicators across the three major
and most frequented threaded discussions.
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Table 4.2 Top 20 Words across Project Groups
Rank Word Count Percentage (%)
1 I 1674 4.08
2 you 729 1.78
3 we 678 1.65
4 have 497 1.21
5 what 387 0.94
6 do 267 0.65
7 can 261 0.64
8 your 258 0.63
9 our 251 0.61
10 all 241 0.59
11 think 221 0.54
12 my 215 0.52
13 so 214 0.52
14 data 202 0.49
15 policy 193 0.47
16 would 184 0.45
17 some 181 0.44
18 need 176 0.43
19 me 173 0.42
20 about 171 0.42
Table 4.3 Top 20 Words across Pairs
Rank Word Count Percentage (%)
1 I 960 4.87
2 you 438 2.22
3 my 339 1.72
4 have 291 1.48
5 we 209 1.06
6 your 189 0.96
7 me 148 0.75
8 what 145 0.74
9 do 130 0.66
10 work 123 0.62
11 about 119 0.60
12 goals 116 0.59
13 can 110 0.56
14 our 102 0.52
15 how 100 0.51
16 school 97 0.49
17 teachers 85 0.43
18 goal 84 0.43
19 some 82 0.42
20 would 82 0.42
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Full Text

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SOCIAL PRESENCE: WHAT I S I T ? HOW DO WE MEASURE IT? by Patrick Ryan Lowenthal B.A., Georgia State University, 1997 M.A., University of Colorado Boulder, 1999 M.A., Uni versity of Colorado Denver, 2003 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation 201 2

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ii This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Patrick Ryan Lowenthal has been approved for the Educational Leadership and Innovation by Joanna C. Dunlap, Chair Joanna C. Dunlap, Advisor Rodney Muth Ellen Stevens Patti Shank Date

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iii Lowenthal, Patrick Ryan (Ph.D. Educational Leadership and Innovation) Social Presence: What is it? How do we measure it? Thesis directed by Associate Professor Joanna C. Dunlap Social presence theory is a central concept in online learning. Hundreds of studies have investigated social presence and online learning. However, despite the continued interest in social presence and online learning, many questions remain about the natu re and development of social presence. Part of this might be due to the fact that the majority of past research has focused on students' perceptions of social presen ce rather than on how students actually establish their social presence in online learning environments. Using the Community of Inquiry Framework, this study explore s how social presence manifests in a fully asynchronous online course in order to help instructional designers and faculty understand how to intentionally design opportunities for st udents to establish and maintain their social presence. This study employs a mixed methods approach using word count, content analysis, and constant comparison analysis to examine threaded discussions in a totally online graduate education course. The resu lts of this study suggest that social presence is more complicated than previously imagined and that situational variables such as group size, instructional task, and previous relationships might influence how social presence is established and maintained in threaded discussions in a fully online course. The form and content of this abstract are approved I recommend its publication. Approved: Joanna C. Dunlap

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iv DEDICATION I dedicate this thesis to the ladies of my life. First, I dedicate this to my mother. I would not be the person I am today if it was not for her Second, I dedicate this to my wife, Alison, for (among other things) her unfaltering support and patience while I was avoiding completing this thesis. I could not have completed this without her love and support Third, I dedicate this to my daughters Jordan and Ashlyn. I hope they und erstand one day why Daddy spent so much time on the com puter. And over time I hope they see me spend less time on the computer and more time with them. Last but not least, I dedicate this to the two greatest dogs in the world, Beezer and Nikita. They both supported me in their own way throughout this process over the years and I miss them dearly now that they are gone.

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v ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I want to thank my advisor, Joanna C. Dunlap for her guidance, support, and patience over the years. Joni taught me how to be a scholar and has been a great colleague and friend. I look forward to continuing our relationship for years to come. I also want to thank Ellen Stevens for never giving up on me and alwa ys asking those tough questions over the years. I want to thank Rodney Muth for his unending support. I took my first EDLI course with Rod, I published my first article with Rod, and I finished my dissertation with Rod. I would also like to thank Marcia Muth for teaching me to be a writer when that was the last thing I thought I would ever become And finally I would like to thank Patti Shank for her continued professional support over the years

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vi TABLE OF CONTENTS FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... x i TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. xiii CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ............................... 1 B ackground ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 3 Social Presence Theory ................................ ................................ .... 3 The Evolution of Social Presence Theory ................................ ....... 5 Limitation of Previous Studies ................................ ................................ ..... 6 Statement of the Problem ................................ ................................ ............. 9 Conceptual Framework ................................ ................................ .............. 1 0 Goal of the S tudy ................................ ................................ ....................... 1 4 Overview of Methods ................................ ................................ ................ 1 6 Sample ................................ ................................ ............................ 1 6 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................. 1 6 Reliability and Validity ................................ ................................ .. 18 Significance of Study ................................ ................................ ................. 18 Limi tations ................................ ................................ ................................ 19 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ...................... 19 2. LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ .................. 2 1

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vii A Brief History of Social Presence Theory ................................ ............... 2 1 Theoretical Foundat ions of Social Presence Theory ..................... 2 1 Intimacy ................................ ................................ ............. 2 2 Immediacy ................................ ................................ .......... 2 2 Influential and Related Research on Social Presence .................... 2 3 Competing Theories of Social Presence Theory ................................ ........ 2 6 Cuelessness ................................ ................................ .................... 2 6 Media Richness ................................ ................................ .............. 27 Social Information Processing ................................ ....................... 28 Defining Social Presence ................................ ................................ ........... 3 1 Measuring Social Presence ................................ ................................ ........ 3 3 Gunawardena's Social Presence Scale ................................ ........... 3 4 Rourke et al.'s Social Presence Indicators ................................ ..... 3 5 Tu and Th e Social Presence and Privacy Questionnaire ............... 37 Research on Social Presence ................................ ................................ ...... 40 Social Presence and Student Satisfaction ................................ ...... 4 0 S ocial Presence and Interaction ................................ ..................... 44 Social Presence and Student Learning ................................ ........... 47 Establishing a nd Maintaining Social Presence ................................ .......... 53 Some Gaps in the Literature ................................ ................................ ...... 57 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ ...................... 60

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viii 3. METHOD ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 6 1 Research Question ................................ ................................ ..................... 6 1 Research Design ................................ ................................ ......................... 6 1 Sample ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 62 Sampling Scheme ................................ ................................ ........... 62 Sampling Design ................................ ................................ ............ 65 Data Collection ................................ ................................ .......................... 67 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ............................. 67 Word Count ................................ ................................ .................... 68 Content Analysis ................................ ................................ ............ 69 Constant Comparison Analysis ................................ ...................... 77 Reliability and Validity ................................ ................................ .............. 79 Reliability ................................ ................................ ....................... 79 Validity ................................ ................................ .......................... 80 Chapter Summa ry ................................ ................................ ...................... 81 4. RESULTS ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 82 Word Count ................................ ................................ ................................ 82 Content Analysis ................................ ................................ ........................ 87 Stage One: Social Presence Categories and Indicators Across All Threaded Discussions ................................ ................................ .... 89

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ix Stage Two: Social Presence Categor ies and Indicators by Threaded Discussion ................................ ................................ ...................... 94 Stage Three: Social Presence Categories and Indicators by Students ................................ ................................ ........................ 1 01 Constant Comparison Analysis ................................ ................................ 1 06 Chapter Summary ................................ ................................ .................... 1 11 5. DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 112 Key Findings ................................ ................................ ............................ 1 12 Group Size ................................ ................................ ................... 1 14 Instructional Task ................................ ................................ ......... 1 16 Past Relationships ................................ ................................ ........ 1 19 One Size Does Not Fit All ................................ ........................... 1 20 Limitations of Studying Social Presence ................................ ................. 1 21 Situational Variables of CMC ................................ ...................... 1 22 Unit of Analysis ................................ ................................ ........... 1 26 Problems with the Social Presence Indicato rs and Treating Them Equally ................................ ................................ ......................... 1 28 Problems with Measur ing the Communi ty of Inquiry ................. 1 30 Limitations of the Study ................................ ................................ ........... 1 32 Concluding Thoughts and Implications ................................ ................... 1 33

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x APPENDIX A. A PPENDIX A ................................ ................................ ................................ 1 36 B. APPENDIX B ................................ ................................ ................................ 1 42 C. APPENDIX C ................................ ................................ ................................ 1 46 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 1 50

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xi LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1.1 Community of Inquiry Framework ................................ ................................ ........ 1 1 1.2 Visual Depiction of Initial Conceptual Framework of Social Presence Developed by Rourke et al. 2001a ................................ ................................ .......................... 1 4 2.1 Communication Media an d Information Richness Diagram ................................ 28 2.2 Timeline of Competing Theories of Social Presence Preceding the Development of the Community o f Inquiry Framework ................................ .............................. 30 2.3 Continuum of Definitions of Social Prese nce ................................ ........................ 33 3.1 Steps Followed to Complete Constant Comparison A nalysis of Online Discussions ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 78 4.1 Word Cloud of Word Count Results Wi thout the Discussions Headings ............. 84 4.2 Frequency of Possi ble Social Presence Indicators Across the Three Major and Most Frequented Threaded Discussions ................................ ......................... 85 4. 3 Stages of Disaggregation of Content Analysis Used to Explore Use of Social Presence Indicators in a Fully Online Asynchronous Course ................................ 88 4. 4 A Visual Depiction of the Frequency of Each of the Th ree Social Presence Categories ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 90 4. 5 Frequency of Social Presence Indicators Acro ss All Threaded Discussions ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 92 4. 6 Social Presence In dicators Separated by Category ................................ ................ 93 4.7 Visual Depiction of the Average Social Presence Indicators Group by Category in Closed Threaded Discussions ................................ ................................ ................ 97

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xii 4.8 Ranking of Social Presence Indicators Used By the Three Students with the Highest Overall So cial Presence Per Post Average ................................ ............. 1 04 4.9 Disaggrega tion of Three Students with Highest So cial Presence per Post Average ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 1 06

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xiii LIST OF TABLES Table 1.1 Categories and indicators of social presence ................................ ............................... 1 2 1.2 Alignment of research questions to data analysis ................................ ........................ 18 2.1 Phases of social presence research ................................ ................................ ............... 30 2.2 Examp le of social presence indicators ................................ ................................ ... 36 2.3 Social presence dimension of the C ommunity of Inquiry Q uestionnaire .............. 39 2.4 Strategies to establish and develop social presence ................................ ............... 53 2.5 Strategies to establish and maintain social presence ................................ .............. 55 3.1 Online descriptions ................................ ................................ ................................ 64 3.2 Threaded discussions raw data ................................ ................................ ............... 66 3 .3 Overview of data analysis ................................ ................................ ...................... 68 3.4 Original social presence cate gories and example indicators ................................ .. 70 3. 5 Ro urke et al.'s categories and indicators of social presence ................................ .. 71 3. 6 E volution of the indicators of social presence ................................ ....................... 72 3. 7 S wan and H ughes et al. combined list of categories and indicators of social presence ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 73 3. 8 C oding sheet used for content analysis ................................ ................................ .. 75 4.1 T op 20 words used across all threaded discussions ................................ ............... 83 4.2 Top 20 words across project groups ................................ ................................ ...... 86 4.3 Top 20 words across pairs ................................ ................................ ...................... 86 4.4 Top 20 words across reading groups ................................ ................................ ..... 87 4.5 Social presence frequency across all forums ................................ ......................... 91

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xiv 4.6 Social presence indicators ranking from highe st to lowest frequency ................... 92 4.7 Open vs. closed threaded discussions ................................ ................................ .... 95 4 .8 A verage social presence indicators per post across open and closed threaded discussions ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 96 4.9 A verage social presence indicators across closed threaded discussions ................ 97 4.10 R anking of average social presence indicators across closed threaded discussion s 98 4.11 A verage social presence indicator per threaded discussion ................................ 100 4.12 S tudent's use of social presence categories ................................ ......................... 1 02 4.13 G roups of codes resulting from the constant comparison analysis of reading G roup E ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 1 08 4.14 G roups of codes resulting from the constant comparison analysis of P air 9 ................................ ................................ ................................ .................... 1 10 5.1 Teaching pres ence categories and indicators ................................ ....................... 1 13 5.2 Instructor vs. student postings in small di scussions ................................ ............. 1 17 5.3 Measuring social presence in a Community of Inquiry ................................ ....... 1 31

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1 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION I can remember when I started teaching online. I was a full believer in online education. I had been teaching face to face courses and even taken a few courses online myself. I was excited to teach online. At the same time, I was scared. I was scared that somehow my personality, my classroom presence, my empathy, my ability to connect with my students all things that I attributed to my success teaching face to face would not translate to an online environment. I regularly meet faculty now who have similar fears. They fear that what they do in the classroom cannot translate to an online environment. Fears like these though are not restricted to faculty. I meet people all the time who make claims like, "I just can't learn that way" or "I need to talk to pe ople face to face" or "online learning is just not for me." For some time, people have had the choice to avoid learning online if it was not their preferred way to learn. But the growth of online education (see Allen & Seaman, 2006, 2010), legislative tren ds that require students to learn online (Walt er s 2011; Watson, 2006), and the blurring of boundaries between fully online and traditional face to face courses (Woo, McNeill, Preston, Green, & Phillips, 2008), suggest that in the near future faculty and s tudents will no longer have the choice to avoid online education. Based on my research and experience, I contend that one's success learning online specifically in formal online education settings begins and ends with one's ability to communicate effect ively online. In my experience, students who struggle communicating online (whether within a L earning Management System or using email) struggle learning online in formal online education al settings. Communicating online is

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2 simply different from communicat ing face to face (Suler, 2004). I am interested in these differences and how people specifically faculty and students take advantage of these differences in formal education settings. In other words, I am interested in how faculty and students leverage th e strengths and minimize the limitations of a computer mediated communication (CMC) medium when teaching and learning online. A supposed limitation of CMC and online education in general is that it is difficult to establish one's presence as a "real" perso n and "connect" with others generally called social presence (Kear, 2010). One reason people struggle learning online I posit is related to this concept of social presence or the lack there of. For instance, isolation and loneliness which are in part du e to a lack of presence are often cited as reason s why students do not persist online (Ali & Leeds, 2010 ; Ludwig Hardman & Dunlap, 2003 ). I have set forth to investigate the big question of how people establish their presence online b y examining how people present themselves as real people in formal online education environments (which predominantly rely on asynchronous CMC). Ultimately, my hope is that my research can help others learn how to establish their social presence in formal online education environments. In the following pages of this chapt er, I provide a formal rationale for and overview of this study by beginning with some background literature on social presence, addressing limitations of previous research, presenting my conceptual framew ork, and finally providing an overview of the methodology used for this study.

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3 Background In the late 1980s and early 1990s, researchers began to study the effects of computer mediated communication (CMC) (Daft & Lengel, 1984, 1986; Rutter, 1984, 1987; W alther, 1996) Some concluded that CMC was inherently antisocial and impersonal (Walther, 1996; Walther, Anderson, & Park, 1994). While Hiltz and Turoff (1993), two early key researchers of CMC, acknowledged that interpersonal relationships might be foster ed through CMC, early research suggested and convinced others that CMC was better at task oriented communication than interpersonal communication (Walther & Parks, 2002) To make sense of findings like these, CMC researchers turned to theories like Cueless ness Theory (Rutter, 1984, 1987), Media Richness Theory (Daft & Lengel, 1984, 1986; Daft, Lengel, & Trevino, 1987), Social Information Processing Theory (Walther, 1996; Walther & Parks, 2002) and Social Presence Theory (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976). Overtime, s ocial presence theory appealed to more researchers of online learning (as is evidenced in the growing body of research on social presence and online learning). And today, social presence theory is the most often referenced theory explaining the social nature of CMC in online education al environments (Lowenthal, 2010). Social Presence Theory Short, Williams, and Christie (1976) originally developed the theory of social presence to explain the effect telecommunications media have on communication. They defined social presence as the degree of salience (i.e., quality or state of being there) between two communicators using a communication medium. They posited that communication media differ in their degree of social presence and that these differenc es

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4 play an important rol e in how people interact They conceptualized social presence primarily as a quality of a communication medium that can determine the way that people interact and communicate. From their perspective, people perceive some media as ha ving a higher degree of social presence (e.g., video) and other media as having a lower degree of social presence (e.g., audio) and still other media having even a lower degree of social presence (e.g., text) More importantly, Short et al. believed that a medium with a high degree of social presence is seen as being sociable, warm, and personal, whereas a medium with a low degree of social presence is seen as less personal. While people might want a less intimate o r immediate communication m edium from time to time (see Williams, 1975), formal education is a very social process that involves high interpersonal involvement. Past resea rch for example, has specifically stressed the importance of contact and cooperation between faculty and studen ts (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). Thus, early on social presence theory appeared to have direct implications for educators in online environments In the late eighties and early nineties, relying on this theory, researchers began concluding that CMC was inhe rently impersonal because the nonverbal and relational cues ( commo n in face to face communication) are filtered out of CMC (Walther & Parks, 2002) Later though in the mid nineties researchers began to notice, even though CMC lacks nonverbal and relation al cues that it can still be very social and interpersonal (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) and at times even hyperpersonal (Walther, 1996). Further, as researchers (Gunawardena, 1995; Tu, 2000) began examining the sociability of online edu cation, they started questioning the degree to which the attributes of a communication medium in this case the cues filtered out of

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5 CMC systems determine how people socially interact (Danchak, Walther, & Swan, 2001; Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Tu, 2000). The Evolution of Social Presence Theory R esearchers of online learning (e.g., Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Tu, 2000) began questioning the theory of social presence develop ed by Short et al. (19 76). These researchers argued, based on their experience and research, that participants in online asynchronous discussions, using text alone, are able to project their personalities into online discussi ons and create social presence They found that onlin e learners are able to present themselves as being "real" as well as "connect" with others when communicating in online learning environments by doing such things as using emoticons, telling stories, and even using humor (Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003). Thus, a user's personal perceptions of social presence which are influenced over time and with experience using a communication medium and the behaviors one learns to use to make up for the cues that are filtered out matter just as much, if not more, than a medium's supposed capabilities. This new line of research sparked a renewed interest in the sociability of online learning, social presence, and CMC as evidenced in the increased amount of literature focused on social presence. Given the research stream s ocial presence is now a central concept in online learning. For instance, social presence has been listed as a key component in theoretical frameworks for distance education ( Akyol & Garrison, 2009; Benbunan Fich, Hiltz, & Harasim, 2005; Vrasidas & Glas s, 2002). Researchers have shown to varying degrees a relationship between social presence and student satisfaction (Gunawardena, 1995;

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6 Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Hostetter & Busch, 2006; Richardson & Swan, 2003 ; So & Brush, 2008 ), social presence and the development of a community of learners (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001a; Rovai, 2002 ; Ryman, Hardham, Richardson, & Ross, 2009 ), and social presence and perceived learning ( Caspi & Blau, 2008; Richardson & Swan, 2003). Just as earlier research ers of CMC (Kiesler, 1986; Kiesler, Siegel, McGuire, 1984 ) used social presence theory to explain why CMC was inherently impersonal, later researchers (Gunawardena, 1995; Tu, 2000) reconceptualized social presence theory focusing less on the medium and mor e on how people adapted to the medium to explain how CMC in online learning environments ca n be very personal and social. Limitations of Previous Studies Despite the intuitive appeal and overall popularity of social presence theory, research on social pr esence still suffers from a few problems. Early studies of social presence and CMC had contradictory findings (see Walther et al., 1994). For instance, studies conducted in laboratory settings tend to support cues filtered out perspectives that suggested t hat CMC was inherently anti social (Connolly, Jessup, & Valacich, 1990; Hiemstra, 1982), whereas studies conducted in the field often did not ( Walther, 1992; Walther et al., 1994 ; Weedman, 1991 ). Walther et al. (1994) explain that c ontradictory findings li ke these are likely due to the abbreviated time periods and unrealistic experimental settings researchers used to study CMC. In much the same way, later research on the sociability of online learning, social presence, and CMC suffers from a number of limi tations. First, researchers of social presence cannot agree upon a single definition of social presence (Biocca & Harms,

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7 2002; Biocca, Harms, & Burgoon, 2003; Rettie, 2003; Lane, 2011; Tu, 2002b). Instead, researchers continue to redefine social presence ( Lowenthal, 2010; Picciano, 2002). Second, the majority of research conducted on social presence has various conceptual or methodological limitations. For example, Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997), one of the foundational and most often cited researchers on social presence, primarily investigated learner s feelings toward CMC as a medium of communication (e.g., asking students the degree to the which they agree to statements like "CMC is an excellent medium for social interaction") rather than specifically asking about how people adapted the medium for soci al purposes. Other researchers studied social presence in hybrid courses (e.g., Hughes et al., 2007; Shea & Bidjerano, 2010; So & Brush, 2008) online course s that had face to face meetings at the beginning of the course (e.g., Tu, 2001; Wise et al., 2004 ) or non traditional learning environments ( e.g., 6 week. self paced, faculty directed courses consisting of a single student) ( e.g., Wise, Chang, Duffy, & Del Valle, 2004). Each of these contexts would inevitably influence how one establishes his or her own social presence as well as how one perceived the social presence of others, but researchers (e.g., Richardson & Swan, 2003; Swan & Shih, 2005) have not explicitly acknowledged how these differences influence social presence. In addition, most researchers studying social presence ( e.g., Arbaugh & Benbunan fich, 2006; Garrison, Cleveland Innes, & Fung, 2010; Gunawardena, 1995; Tu 2002a; Richardson & Swan, 2003) have used similar data analysis techniques. The majority of research has relied either on content analysis or on self report data (obtained through a questionnaire). Relying solely on one type of analysis can lead researchers to make interpretive errors about the underlying phenomenon they are studying (Leech &

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8 Onwuegbuzie, 2007). Studies o f social presence might benefit from employing multiple or mixed methods (see Lowenthal & Leech, 2009 ). Third, foundational research on social presence is dated (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Rourke et al, 2001a; Tu, 2001, 2002a, 2002b). The majority of the foundational research on social presence is over five to ten years old, and during the past five years alone CMC and online learning have grown exponentially. CMC is no longer a fringe activity used by a select group of users (Smith, 20 10) ; rather, CMC, issues of the digital divide aside, is commonplace. As people use the Internet and e mail to communicate with others more each day, it is logical to assume that they become more adept at communicating becoming literate with this medium. T his is not simply a case of supposed digital natives (i.e., those who have grown up with technology) using CMC differently than digital immigrants (i.e., those who are new to technology) (Brown, 2002; Prensky, 2001). Rather, it is an issue of how peopl e learn to use any communication medium better over time: The cell phone is a perfect example with million s of users worldwide, from the slums of India to the penthouses of New York City nearly everybody seems to have a cell phone these days. The increased amount of time spent online has led online users of all ages and all generations to adjust their perceptions, expectations, and day to day use of CMC. Just as research in the early 1990s ( e.g., Gunawardena, 1995; Walther 1992, 1994, 1996) began to call i nto question CMC research in the 1980s ( i.e., Kiesler, 1986; Kiesler, Siegel, McGuire, 1984; Rutter, 1984, 1987 ) additional research on social presence might begin to question research conducted in the late 1990s and early 2000s ( e.g., Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Rourke et al, 2001a; Tu, 2000) Researchers need to continue to study social

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9 presence, and at times even replicate previous studies (unfortunately rarely done) in order to ensure that current assumptions about social presence are still corre ct across various contexts. Finally, and most important, some research on social presence contradicts other research (see Lowenthal, 2010) For instance, some researchers have found that social presence behaviors used by online learners decrease over time (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001a), while others have found that social presence behaviors do not decrease over time (Stacey, 2002). In addition, Picciano (2002) found a relationship between social presence and stude nt learning, while Wise et al. ( 2004) did not For all of the se reasons, additional research on social presence in online learning environments is needed and especially in asynchronous learning environments the dominant form of online education (National Center for Education St atistics, 2008) to help clarify what social presence is and its role in online learning. Statement of the Problem Despite the continued interest in social presence and CMC, many questions remain about the nature and development of social presence (Lowenth al & Dunlap, 2011; Swan & Shih, 2005; Rourke & Kanuka, 2009) In addition, some of what researchers and practitioners think they do know is questionable due to the limitations of past research. The majority of research on social presence (e.g., Gunawardena 1995; Na Ubon & Kimble, 2003; Picciano, 2002; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Rourke & Anderson, 2002b; Russo & Campbell, 2004; Tu, 2002b; Wheeler, 2005; So & Brush, 2008) has focused on faculty and students perceptions of social presence. Fewer studies by comp arison ( e.g., Hughes, Ventura, & Dando, 2007; Lomicka & Lord, 2007; Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan,

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10 2002, 2003a) have actually stud ied observable indicators of social presence in online discussions. While it is important to understand perceptions of social pr esence, it is also important to study what students do and say online (Kramer, Oh, & Fussell, 2006). However, not enough studies do just this and t he few studies that have done this have failed to describe adequately how social presence manifests itself in asynchronous online courses. Researchers (e.g., Hughes et al., 2007; Rourke et al., 2001a ) have typically sampled only one part of a course and analyzed it with o nly o ne type of analysis, typically content analysis As a result, I posit that both resear chers and practitioners may have a very limited understanding of social presence Given these reasons, I set forth to conduct a mixed methods exploratory study of social presence I chose to do this in hopes of learning more about the observable indicator s of social presence in online course discussions. Conceptual Framework Many r esearchers ( Arbaugh, 20 07; Delfino, & Manca, 2007; Lomicka & Lord, 2007; Nippard & Murphy, 2007; Rourke & Anderson, 2002 a, 2002b; Swan et al., 2008) have argued for some time tha t t he c ommunity of i nquiry (Co I) framework is the most popular framework to study social presence. The CoI framework is a comprehensive guide ( Garrison, Ander son, & Archer, 2000 ) for research on the practice of online lea rning (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007 ). G arrison et al. (2000) argued that meaningful learning takes place in a CoI, comprised of teachers and students, through the interaction of three core elements: cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence (see Figure 1.1).

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11 Cognitive presence, the first element in the model, is "the extent to which the participants in . a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication" (Garrison et al., 2000, p. 89). Social presence, the second element in the mode l, is the "ability of participants in a c ommunity of i nquiry to project their personal characteristics into the community, thereby presenting themselves to other participants as real people'" (p. 89). Finally, teaching presence, the third element in the m odel, is the ability of a teacher or teachers to support and enhance social and cognitive presence through instructional management, building understanding, and direct instruction. Figure 1.1. Community of i nquiry framework Garrison et al. (2000) initially developed three categories of social presence (i.e., Emotional Expression, Open Communi cation, and Group Cohesion). They l ater developed specific indicators of social presence (e.g., use of humor, continuing a thread, or the use of vocatives) (Rourke et al., 2001a) to help identify observable instances of social presence in CMC (see Table 1.1) They later renamed these categories (e.g., Cognitive Presence Teaching Presence Social Presence Educational Experience

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12 Emotional E xpression was renamed Affective Responses) and tested the validity of the categories and indicators of social presence (Rourke et al., 2001a). Swan (2003) expanded the indicators even further, and then Hughes et al. (2007) later (though apparently unaware of Swan's work) made some changes to Rourke et al.'s indicators as well. Despite the renaming of the categories and some minor changes to the social presence indicators (which are discussed in more detail in Chapter s 2 and 3 ), Garrison et al.'s (2000) orig inal categories and the later complete list of indicators ( Rourk e et al., 2001) of social presence have for the most part remained unchanged (see Table 1.1). Table 1.1 Categories and Indicators of Social Presence Category Indicators Definition of Indicato rs Affective Responses (originally Emotional Expression ") Expression of emotions Conventional expressions of emotion, or unconventional expressions of emotion, includes repetitious punctuation, conspi cuous capitalization, emoticons Use of Humor Teasing, cajoling, irony, understatements, sarcasm Self Disclosure Presents details of life outside of cl ass, or expresses vulnerability Interactive Responses (originally Open Communication ") Continuing a Thread Using reply feature of software, ra ther than starting a new thread Quoting from Other Messages Using software features to quote others entire message or cutting and pasti ng sections of others' messages Referring explicitly to othe r messages Direct references to contents of others' posts Asking questions Students ask questions of other students or the moderator Complimenting, expressing appreciation Complimenting others or contents of others' messages Expressing agreement Expressing agreement with others or content of others' messages

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13 Table 1.1 (con't.) Cohesive Responses (originally Group Cohesion ") Vocatives Addressing or referring to participants by name Addresses or refers to the group using inclusive pronouns Addresses the group as we, us, our, group Phatics / Salutations Communication that serves a purely social function; greetings, closures Note. From "Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text based Computer Conferencing," by L. Rourke, D. R. Garrison, and W. Archer, 2001a, in Journal of Distance Education 14. Garrison, though, pointed out in 2008 that these indicators have not been revisited since their initial development and that they might need to be revised (Arbaugh et al., 2008) which in many ways is a possible outcome of this study. Rourke et al. (2001a) were the first to test and validate the indicators of social presence. However, Garrison et al. (2000) an d later Rourke et al. (2001a) did not clearly identify the relationship between the indicators of social presence. In oth er words, they left researchers wondering whether certain categories or indicators of social presence are better examples than others When faced with the need to calculate a social presence score from the frequency of indicators found in the coded transcr ipts of CMC they decided to treat all indicators equally and simply sum the frequenc ies of all 12 indicators (Rourke et al. 2001a ) This appeared to have been more of a pragmatic decision rather than a theoretical or empirical decision to find a way to c reate a s ocial presence s core from the indicators in order to quantify and compare transcripts of CMC Rourke et al. 2001a though openly admitted their uncertainty about weighting all 12 indicators equally. Despite this admitted uncertainty researchers h ave followed the same process in

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14 developing a social presence score though Hughes et al. ( 2007 ) was openly critical of this practice F ollowing the work of researchers like R ourke et al. (2001a), I conceptualize social presence as an additive process in which all categories and indicators of social presence are of equal importance (see Figure 1.2). However, like Hughes et al. ( 2007 ) I am skeptical of this conceptualization and hope that among oth er things my research will (by using multiple forms of analysis) help support or challenge the assumed additive nature of Rourke et al.'s conceptualization of social presence. Figure 1.2. Visual depiction of initial conceptual framework of social presence developed by Rourke et al., 2000a. Goal of the Study The goal of this study i s to understand better how social presence manifests in threaded discussions in asynchronous online courses. However, all CMC is not the same (Herring, 2007). While researchers can generalize about CMC at some level, they should " # $%%&'()*& +&,-./,&, !"#$%&&'()* (+*%,(-'()& * .&%*(+* /0,($ * 1%2+ 3 4'&52(&0$% 0.1&,)*&" 6(57-'8%& * .&%*(+* 9)520&'8%* :$()(0)& * :;7-'5&*<* 1720-7-'()& =()-')0')>*7* ?;$%7@ * A0(-')>*+$(,* B-;%$*C%&&7>%& * D%+%$$')>* !"#2'5'-2E*-(* B-;%$*C%&&7>%& * F&G')>* A0%&-'()& * =(,#2',%)-')>* <*!"#$%&&')>* F##$%5'7-'() * 2/(&34'()*&" 5.')46" 73&,&/'&

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15 recognize the situated and changing nature of social presence Given this and to accomplish the goal of this study, I study social presence in an intentional, socially situated, specific context. Thus the goal of this study is to explore the phenomenon known as social presence by investigating how it manife sts during online discourse in a n asynchronous online graduate education course. The following research question guide s this exploratory study : How does social presence manifest in a n asynchronous, online graduate education course? This specific question was chosen because t he majority of research on social presence has either relied solely on self report data of faculty and student perceptions of social presence or has been confined to a monomethod approach usually using content analys is to analyze a few weeks of online threaded discussions. Both of these approaches fail to explore and describe how social presence manifests in threaded discussions over the length of a course In other words, what are faculty and students actually doing to establish their social presence? T he focus of this study, given this research question, is on developing a rich description of social presence by using m ultiple types of data analysis in ord er to help faculty and students have better exp eriences in online courses and to enable course designers to develop better online courses. Overview of Methods In the following paragraphs, I briefly describe the methods used for this study. I specifically focus on the sample, data analysis, reliability, and validity. Each of these topics is addressed in greater detail in Chapter 3.

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16 Sample A single completely online graduate course in education was purposefully and conveniently sampled for th is study. Thus, a non random (non probability) criterion sampling scheme was used in this study (Onwuegbuzie & Collins, 2007). A section of EDLI 7210 Educational Policy Making in a Democratic Society which was taught online in the spring of 2007 was ide ntified as an appropriate sample for this study. The course wa s a graduate level online course in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver delivered via eCollege All of the threaded discussions in the eCollege course shell for this course w ere used for this study. The population of the course primarily consist ed of graduate students completing coursework for an Educational Specialist (EdS) degree or a PhD Many of the EdS students were also seeking their principal license. N ineteen graduate students were enrolled in the course. Data Analysis The majority of research on social presence has relied primarily on self report survey data (e.g., Gunawardena, 1995; Richar dson & Swan, 2003) While self report survey measures are useful and have their place in educational research, as Kramer, Oh, and Fussell (2006) point out, they "are retroactive and insensitive to changes in presence over the course of an interaction [or s emester]" (p. 1). In t his study, rather than focus on students perceptions of presence (which I have done in other studies such as Lowenthal & Dunlap, 2011; Lowenthal, Lowenthal, & White, 2009 ), I focus ed instead on what was "said" in the online threaded discussions

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17 I used a mixed methods exploratory methodology (Miles & Huberman, 1994; Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2005b) that employed both quantitative and qualitative methods to conduct this study In order to explore social presence in a specific situated asynchronous learning environment in great detail I analyzed the online threaded discussions ( now archived in the discussion forums) using word count, content analysis, and constant comparison a nalysis (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007) M ore specifically, m ultiple forms of data analysis wer e used to address the research question How does social presence manifest in a graduate education asynchronous online course? (see Table 1.2 above for an illustrat ion of this). First, I analyzed all of the discussions with word count (in conjunction with basic descriptive statistics o f each forum) to identify which threaded discussion had a higher frequency of words and posts as well as which one's had a higher numb er of social presence indicators ( types of words ) Second, I used content analysis to analyze every threaded discussion, using a modified version of the s ocial presence indicators developed by Garrison et al. (2000) and later modified by Swan (2003) and Hu ghes et al. (2007). Based on the results of the word count and content analysis, I then selected two discussion threads one with a high number of social p resence indicators and one with a low number of social presence indicators to analyze in more depth wi th a grounded theory c onstant comparison analysis technique.

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18 Table 1.2 Alignment of Research Questions to Data Analysis Research Question Data Analysis Type of Data How does social presence manifest in a graduate education asynchronous online course? Word Count (Quantitative) Content Analysis (Quantitative) Constant Comparative Analysis (Qualitative) DD DDD All course discussions All course discussions One discussion threads with high social presence & one with low social presence Reliability and Validity Reliability and validity are key considerations for any researcher. The most common method used to calculate interrater reliability is a percent agreement statistic (Rourke et al., 2001b). Two researchers (me and another researcher) coded the threaded dis cussions using content analysis A percent agreement statistic was calculated using Holsti's (1969) coefficient of reliability. A large component of establishing validity which is often described as trustworthiness in qualitative literature is developing a sound theoretical framework (Garrison, Cleveland Innes, Ko ole, & Kappelman, 2006). I have established the validity of this study by working from Garrison et al.'s CoI framework Further, the coding schemes I used for this study also came directly from the literature (Hughes et al., 2007; Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003 ). Significance of the Study Learning is a very human and social activity (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009 b ) Online learning environments, though, can feel isolating and impersonal. Given this, e ducators must find ways to make formal online learning environments more personal

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19 and less isolating not only to help students persist but also to increase engagement and satisfaction. To accomplish this, educators have focused on establishing social pres ence in online courses (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009 b ). The significance or educational value of this research lies in its ability to help researchers better identify and study instances of social presence as well as to help faculty who teach online better und erstand how they can identify and establish social presence by using specific indicators of social presence. Further, the results of this study can help instructional designers design and develop online courses that utilize specific instructional approache s to help students establish their social presence online. Limitations All studies suffer from some type of limitation. Perhaps the most obvious limitation is the time that has passed between when the course was offered and when I analyzed the data. Related to this limitation is my inability to check with students (whether t hrough specific interviews or member checking) to verify whether or not what I found in the course discussions is actually what they intended. However, one of the main reasons to focus on the language students use is because students rarely clarify what th ey mean by a posting; rather, other students simply do their best to make sense of what they read. In other words, in my experience very little member checking occurs in a typical online discussion so this limitation might actually end up being a very real istic component to this study. C hapter Summary Researchers have been studying social presence in online learning environments for a number of years now (Lowenthal, 2009). However, research on social presence to

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20 date suffers from a host of problems ranging from inconsistent and contradictory findings to strange sampling decisions. Part of the problem might be the methodological decisions made by researchers. Instead of using a monomethod approach like the majority of past research, I employed a mixed methods approach to studying social presence, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the complex nature of social presence. In addition, this study specifically focused on how social presence manifests during threaded discussions in as ynchronous online courses. In Chapter 2, I present a review of the literature. In Chapter 3, I go over the methods used for this study. In Chapters 4 and 5 I present the results, discuss the findings, and provide recommendations for faculty and instruction al designers as well as for future research on social presence.

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21 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW I n the following chapter, I synthesize past research on social presence in general and specifically research on the c ommunity of i nquiry (CoI) framework to provid e a foundation and some background for my study. I begin by addressing the histor y of social presence theory. After that I address some early competing theories of social prese nce and some differences in how researchers define an d measure social presence I then conclude this chapter by synthesizing some of the research conducted on the community of inquiry in general an d social presence in particular and addressing some gaps in the literature. A Brief History of Social Presence Theory As mentioned in Cha pter 1, Short, Williams, and Christie (1976) developed the initial theory of social presence in their book, The Social Psychology of Telecommunications While this book often serves as the foundational text to understand the initial theory of social presence, it is important to look at the foundations of this theory as well as later research conducted by Short et al. to understand how the theory of socia l presence has evolved over the years. Theoretical Foundations of Social Presence Theory T he collective work of Short et al. (1976) that is presented in The Social Psychology of Telecommunications as well the work Short, Williams, and Christie (e.g., Short 1974; Christie & Kingan, 1977; Williams, 1975; Wilson & Williams, 1977) conducted individually or with other colleagues before and after their seminal text was influenced by the social psychology concepts of intimacy and immediacy. Short et al.

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22 openly a cknowledge that their concept of social presence is related to these two concepts. Thus, each of these concepts is discussed in more detail in the following paragraphs. Intimacy Argyle and Dean (1965) were the first to use the concept of intimacy to explain communication behavior. They developed a theory of intimacy and equilibrium to explain how people communicating with each other will adjust their behavior to maintain a sen se of equilibrium. They explain that aspects of intimacy are governed by both approach and avoidance forces, and are kept in a condition of equilibrium for any two peopleif this equilibrium is disturbed along one of its constituent dimensions, e.g., by increasing physical proximity, th ere will be compensatory changes along the other dimensions. (p. 304) According to Argle (1969), people establish intimacy in a number of ways when commun icating, such as proximity, eye contact, smiling, and persona l topics of conversation. Short et al. (1976) argue that the social presence of a communication medium also effects intimacy and therefore should be added to this list of ways that people establish intimacy. Immediacy Wiener and Mehrabian (1968) developed the concept of immediacy. They conceptualized immediacy as the psychological distance people put between themselves and others when communicating. While Wiener and Mehrabian (1968) were initially focused on speech comm unication, Mehrabi an (1972) later distinguished between three types of immediacy: verbal, nonverbal, and technological immediacy. Verbal immediacy describes how people use their choice of words to reduce or increase psychological distance between them and others. Fo r example, the use of the words "let us" or "we" can create more immediacy between two people than simply using "you" or "I

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23 People also convey immediacy nonverbally through their dress, facial expressions, or physical proximity (Mehrabian, 19 72). Fi nally, technological immediacy suggests that a medium of communication can convey immediacy. According to Mehrabian (1972), communicating face to face is more immediate than communicating with video; further, communicating with a video is more imme diate than communicating by phone. While immediacy in general, and technologi cal immediacy in particular, is similar to social presence, Short et al. (1976) argue that important differences exist For instance Short et al. argue that "for any given medium of communication (e.g., telephone) and situation (e.g., long distance call), immediacy may vary even when social presence does not" (p. 73). "" While Short et al. (1976) claim that important differences are fou nd between immediacy and social presence, the distinction is not very clear. Further, they spend only a few paragraphs addressing the similarities and diff erences between social presence, intimacy and immediacy. Not surprisingly, subsequent researchers of ten fail to differentiate clearly between intimacy, immediacy and social presence ; in fact, researchers often appear to use the terms immediacy and social presence synonymously (e.g., Gunawardena 1995 ). Influential and Related Research on Social Presenc e Short et al. (1976) were all part of the Communications Studies Group at University College in London. The Communications Studies Group consisted of an estimated 30 people who conducted a number of experiments in the early 1970s on communication media ( Pye & Williams, 1978) Interesting ly The Social Psychology of

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24 Telecommunications appears to be the only joint publication by these three researchers. However, each of them published, as individuals or with other colleagues, a number of other studies on t he effects of communication media (e.g., Short, 1974; Christie & Holloway, 1975; Christie & Kingan, 1977; Williams, 1975; Williams, 1977; Wilson & Williams, 1977 ). The majority of this research focused on comparing people's attitudes toward different comm unication media (e .g., face to face, audio, video ). The following paragraphs briefly summarize a few key findings from this early research that later influenced the development of and people's understandings of social presence theory. The majority of this early research focused on the assumed importance of the visual channel of communication. Given the importance placed on the visual channel in previous literature, Short et al. (1976) and colleagues not surprisingly found that the visual channel of communi cation was an advantage of a communication medium and therefore high ly important ( Christie, 1974; Short, 1974; Williams, 1975 ) Christie (1974) reports from one study that visual media were judged more useful for complex group discussions, private conversations and non private dyadic conversations. Thus, the presence of visual channel appears to be perceived as an important advantage of a communications medium. (p. 367) Additional research (Christ i e, 1974; Christie & Kingan, 1977; Williams, 1975 ), though, began to show that the importance of a communication medium depended largely on the task at hand. In fact, according to Christie (1974) "it is clearly misleading to conceptualize different media as lying along a single dimension of acceptability or usefulness. Their perceived usefulness varies according to the application considered" (p. 368). Williams (1975) argued that p eople might want a less intimate or immediate communication medium for certain tasks For instance, Williams (1975) suggest s "that

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25 with tasks of very high intimacy perhaps very embarrassing, personal or conflictual ones the least immediate medium, the telephone, would lead to more favorable evaluations than either o f the more immediate media" ( p. 128). Further, their research showed that tasks that are low on interpersonal involvement but still cooperative in nature can easily be accomplished by audio or video conferencing (Williams, 1978a); however, tasks that require more interpersonal involvement are sensitive to the subst itution of telecommunications for face to face interaction (p. 127). Other than the suggestions made by Williams (1978a), very little was written in these early articles about the role of the visual channel for instructional tasks. However, Williams (197 8a) argued that "tele education seems especially promising since educational activities are primarily for cooperative problem solving and the tra nsmission of information act ivi ti es which have been shown to be almost unaffected by the medium of communicatio n used" (p. 129). Williams (1978a) went on to point o ut that our knowledge about the role of mediated communication is far from complete as was our understanding of how people learned in the late 1970s. Later research conducted by Christie and Kingan (1977 ) showed among other things, that while visual cues are helpful, they are not necessary for people to communicate effectively. In fact, physical presence (i.e., being close to someone physically) may be even more important for two people communicating t h an visual cues (i.e., seeing another person ) (Williams, 1978b) Results like these began to call for a more complex explanation for the role of visual cue s in the communication process. Williams (1978b) suggested that the answers might be found in the th eory of social presence.

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26 Competing Theories of Social Presence The theory of social presence developed by Short et al. was only one of a number of theories used to explain the influence a communication medium can have on communication. The three most po pular competing theories of social presence especially during the 1980s were Cuelessness Theory developed by Rutter (198 4, 1987), Media Richness Theory developed by Daft and Lengel (1984, 1986; Daft, Lengel, & Trevino, 1987), and Social Information Processing Theory developed by Walther (1996; Walther & Parks, 2002). The first two theories (like Social Presen ce T heory) have been described as deficit models because they focus on the cues that are filtered out a nd idealize face to face communication as the gold standard ( Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic, 2004), whereas the th ird theory focuses not only on what is filtered out but what is gained through CMC. Each of these theories are addressed briefly in the following se ctions to illustrate the zeitgeist of the 1980s and early 1990s when researchers of online learning reinvented the theory of social presence developed by Short et al Cuelessness Working from a similar theoretical framework, Rutter (1984, 1987; Rutter, P ennington, Dewey, & Swain, 1984; Kemp & Rutter, 1986) developed what he called the Cuelessness Model Rutter was concerned with the over emphasis placed on the importance of eye contact when two people were communicating. As a result, he and his colleague s (1984) set forth to challenge the intimacy model developed by Argyle and Dean (1965) and later Argyle and Cook (1976). Rutter and his colleagues argued that previous research had focused too much on looking and eye gaze and not enough on the mutual gazin g back and forth. Like Williams before, Rutter et al. (1986) found that what

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27 mattered was visual access to the entire person rather than simply access to another's eyes. They argued that it was the combined social cues from vision and other senses that m attered. The Cuelessness Model essentially claims that the fewer social cues, the greater the psychological distance between two communicators (Rutter et al., 1986). Further, the greater the psychological distance, the more communication turns to task oriented depersonalized content (Kemp & Rutter, 1986; Rutter, 1984; Rutter et al., 1986). In fact, Rutter and colleagues (Rutter, 1989) found that the number of social cues (i.e., both visual and physical presence cues) decreased when comparing how people communicated in certain situations (e.g., closed circuit television, curtain, and audio). Media Richness Another competing theory that emerged during the 1980s is the theory of Media R ichness. Media Richness T heory was developed by Daft and Lengel (1984, 1986). Whereas Rutter and colleagues were aware of the work of Short et al., Daft and Lengel never seem to explicitly acknowledge the work of Short et al. Daft and Lengel (1984) were focused primarily on the in formation processing behaviors in organizations. Therefore, they were interested in a concept called information richness: Richness is defined as the potential information carrying capacity of data. If the communication of an item of data, such as a wink provides substantial new understanding, it would be considered rich. If the datum provides little understanding, it would be low in richness. (p. 196) They posited that a communication medium can determine the richness of information (Daft & Lengel, 198 6). They argued that face to face communication had the highest richness and nume ric communication (e.g., spread sheet with numbers) the lowest; see Figure 2.1 for a complete list of media richness by media.

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28 Information Medium Information Richness Fac e to Face Highest Telephone High Written, Personal (bulletins, documents) Moderate Written, Formal (bulletins, documents) Low Numeric Formal (computer output) Lowest Figure 2.1. Communication media and information richness diagram Note. From "Information R ichness: A N ew A pproach to M anagerial B ehavior and O rganizational D esign," by R. L. Daft and R. H. Lengel, 1984, in L. L. Cummings & B. M. Staw (Eds.), Research in O rganizational B ehavior (191 233). Homewood, IL: JAI Social Information Proc essing The last of the three competing models is the Social Information Processing model developed by Walther (1992, 1994, 1996). Walther developed his model in response to the previous so called "deficit" theories. Whereas previous researchers were int erested in media effects across various communication media, Walther focused primarily on CMC. He criticized previous research, like that addressed earlier in this chapter, for a number of reasons. First, the majority of the early research was conducted in experimental settings that did not mirror how people communicate with different media in real life (1992). Second, these early studies and researchers assumed that the absence of visual cues led to an absence of sociability. Third, they assumed that task oriented communication lacked relational and social communication. Finally they failed to acknowledge that just as cues are filtered out, other cues are filtered into CMC and

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29 therefore CMC has some affordances that face to face communication does not (Wa lther, 1996; Walther & Parks, 2002). Walther (1992) argued that Humans' social nature is the same in CMC and face to face environments. Given enough time, he believed that people will find ways to compensate for any cues that are filtered out in CMC. Th e social information processing model essentially posits that given enough time, CMC can be very personal and even hyperpersonal (Walther, 1992, 1996). Previous research tended to put time restrictions on how people communicated that Walther believe d dimin ished the possibility of interpersonal and re lational communication. Walther's research on the other hand suggested t hat Previous interaction between communicators influenced how people communicated onli ne; T he possibility of future interaction influenced the degree to which people socially interacted online ; The way users used emoticons influenced interpersonal communication online. These competing theories help illustrate the way that thinking about a medium's effect on communication especially interp ersonal and social communication change over time. The research that began with the work of Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) which I refer to as the third phase of social presence research (see Table 2.1 and Figure 2.2 ) was influenced by prev ious research and theories, especially that of Walther. Rather than conceptualizing social presence as Short et al. did, Gunawardena and those that followed her (like Garrison et al., 2000, whose work serves as the

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30 conceptual framework for this study) beg an reconceptualizing social presence theory focu sing more on how people appropri ate technology rather than simply on what a technology allows us to do. In fact, the work of Garrison et al. and the CoI really represent a fourth phase of research on social presence (see Table 2.1 and Figure 2.2). Table 2.1 Phases of Social Presence Research Phase Period Key Figures Focus of Research Phase 1 1970s Short et al. Focused on Telecommunications Phase 2 1980s early1990s Rutter Daft & Lengel Kiesler Walther Focused on CMC Phase 3 1990 1999 Gunawardena Rourke et al. Tu Focused on Online Learning Phase 4 2000s Present Garrison et al. Karen Swan Peter Shea Focused on Social Presence's Role in establishing a c ommunity of i nquiry in Online Learning Figure 2.2. Timeline of competing theories of social presence preceding the development of the c ommunity of i nquiry f ramework.

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31 Defining Social Presence Given the evolution of social presence theory, it is probably not surprising that t here is not a clear, agreed upon, definition of social presence (Rettie, 2003; Tu, 2002b). In fact, nearly everyone who writes about social presence seems to define it just a lit tle differently. Presence is a key theoretical construct used in a variety of disciplines besides communication and online learning most notably virtual reality (see Biocca, 1997). In fact, Lombard and Ditto n (1997) identified six interrelated but distinc t ways that people understand "presence": (a) presence as social richness, (b) presence as realism, (c) presence as transportation, (d) presence as immersion, (e) presence as social actor within medium, and (f) presence as medium as social actor. They ev en attempted to create one all encompassing definition of presence. According to Lombard and Ditto, the following definition takes into consideration all six ways presence is understood; presence is "the perceptual illusion of nonmediation" (presence expli cated section). To date, though, their all encompassing definition has not been widely adopted by others. Biocca, Harms, and Burgoon (2003) also recognized the different ways researchers across different fields define presence. They attempted to create an all encompassing definition of social presence as well; they defined social presence as simply a "sense of being with another'" (p. 456) whether that other is human or artificial. Despite attempts by Lombard and Ditto (1997) and Biocca et al. (2003) to develop some conceptual clarity when it comes to discussions of presence in general or social presence in particular, researchers of social presence and CMC in educational environments continue to redefine social presence (Picciano, 2002). Gunawardena (19 95)

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32 defined social presence as "the degree to which a person is perceived as a real person' in mediated communication" (p. 151). Garrison et al. (2000), on the other hand, originally defined social presence as the ability of participants in a community o f inquiry to project themselves socially and emotionally, as real' people (i.e., their full personality), through the medium of communication being used" (p. 94). Tu and McIsaac (2002) define social presence as "the degree of feeling, perception, and reac tion of being connected by CMC to another intellectual entity through a text based enc ounter" (p. 140). Finally, Picciano (2002) defines social presence as "a student's sense of being in and belonging in a course and the ability to interact with other stu dents and an instructor" (p. 22). The differences in how researchers define social presence might seem minor but they are important (see Ice, Gibson, Boston, & Becher, 2011) For instance, Rourke et al. (2001) focus on students (or instructor s) ability to project themselves as "real" whereas P icciano focuses more on student s sense of belonging to a community. Issues of definition are important because the way researchers define social presence influences how they measure social presence and the conclusion s they draw. Definitions of social presence, at least for researchers of social presence and online learning, tend to fall on a continuum (see Figure 2.3). At one end of the continuum, researchers tend to conceptualize social presence as the degree to whic h a person is perceived as being "real" and being "there." These definitions tend to focus on whether someone is able to project himself or herself as being "real" in an online environment and whether others perceived this person as being there and being r eal. In fact, Williams (1978 a ) define d social presence in this way when he defined social

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33 presence as "the feeling of contact obtained . across various communication media (p. 127). At the other end of the continuum, researchers tend to go beyond whet her someone is perceived as being "present" that is, simply "there" or "real" instead focusing on whether there is an interpersonal emotional connection between communicators. It is important to note, though, that on this end of the continuum, there tends to be an assumption that the interpersonal and emotional connection that communicators establish when there is social presence is a positive c onnection. Finally, like most continuums, the majority of researchers find themselves somewhere in the middle placing some emphasis on an emotional connection rather than on the ends of the continuums. Figure 2.3. Continuum of Definitions of Social Presence Measuring Social Presence After all the theorizing, researchers need to be able to identify, measure, and test their theories about social presence. As researchers began to conceptualize social presence differently, rather than use techniques developed and utilized by past researchers perhaps because of Walther's critique of these techniques they began to look for new ways to study social presence. Gunawardena (1995), Rourke et al. (2001), and Tu (2002b) have been three foundational researchers in developing ways to study Sense that someone is real Sense that someone is there (present) Emotional Connection Sense that someone is real Sense that someone is there (present) No focus on emotion

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34 social presence. But just like in the mid 1970s when researchers either studied social presence by observing user behavior or examining users attitudes (Christie, 1974) researchers in the third and fourth wave of social presence research have tended to focus either on studying users' attitudes or their beha viors online. For instance, Gunawardena and Tu foc used primarily on studying user s attitudes whereas Rourke et al. focused on studying user s behaviors (though it is important to note that while Garrison early on focused on studying users' be haviors with his colleagues Rourke et al., he later turned to studying students attitudes). Regardless of their focus, the work of each of these researchers has heavily influenced most of the studies on social presence and CMC during the past ten years I n the following paragraphs, I will address how each of these researchers studied social presence. Gunawardena's Social Presence Scales Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) conducted some of the earliest studies on social presence and CMC in an ed ucation settin g. In her first article, Gunawardena (1995) reported on two different studies she conducted in the early 1990s In the first study, she measured users' perceptions of CMC using a survey. She had students rank 17 bi polar scales on a 5 poin t likert type scale (from negative to positive) For instance, she asked students whether CMC was more socialable or unsocialable or more warm or cold ( see Table A1 in Appendix A for the complete list). The bi polar scales she used focus on users' percep tions of the medium more than the degree to which users perceive others as "real" or "there."

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35 Gunawardena (1995) reports in the same article about a second study in which she qualitatively analyzed some data; however, she does not elaborate on what data s he analyzed or how she analyzed the data that she reported. In a later article, Gunawardena and Zittle (1997) reported on additional data collected from an earlier sample. However, with this study, Gunawardena and Zittle created an instrument they call ed the Social Presence Scale (see Appendix A). The Social Presence Scale was similar to the previous scale used by Gunawardena, but instead of responding to bi polar scales, students were asked to rank 14 questions on a scale of 1 to 5. For instance, one question asked students to rank on a scale of 1 to 5 to what degree they agree or disagree that CMC is an excellent medium for social interaction. The Social Presence Scale was tested for internal consistency (Alpha = .88) and appears to investigate the co nstruct of social presence more directly than the previous scale Rourke et al.'s Social Presence Indicators Unlike Gunawardena who measured social presence through a self report questionnaire, Rourke et al. (2001) sought to measure social presence throu gh analyzing online discussions. As touched on in Chapter 1, Rourke et al. identified three different categories of social presence : affective responses, interactive responses, and cohesive responses They then developed twelve indicators that researchers could use to analyze transcripts of CMC (primarily through content analysis). An example of these indictors can be seen in Table 2.2 (see Appendix A for the complete list of indicators). Rourke et al. developed these cat egories and indicators based on their previous work (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000; Rourke, et al., 2001 a ), other literature in the field, and finally their experience reading online transcripts.

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36 Table 2.2 Example of Social Presence Indicators Category Indicators Definition of Indicators Affective Responses Expression of emotions Conventional expressions of emotion, or unconventional expressions of emotion, includes repetitious punctuation, conspicuous capitalization, emoticons Use of Humor Teasing, cajoling, irony, understatements, sarcasm Self Disclosure Presents details of life outside of class, or expresses vulnerability Rourke et al. (2001a) tested and measured the "efficacy and reliability" of their categories and indicators by using them with participants in two graduate education online courses. One single week from each course was identified, and all of the discussion postings for those t wo weeks were analyzed. The first course had more than twice the number of postings and words as the second course ; as a result, in order to compare the two, Rourke et al. ( 2001a) summed the raw number of instances and divided by the total number of words and then multiplied it by 1000 to come up with a social presence density score. T hey had high interrater reliability. Rourke et al. ( 2001a ) though, caution ed readers about gener alizing their results because their main purpose was to "develop and test the efficacy of a tool for analyzing the social presence component of educational computer conferences" (Discussion section) rather than to draw conclusions specifically about the sa mples in question. They also acknowledged that they were still unclear whether all 12 indicators should be weighted equally, a s well as whether or not there wa s an optimal level of social presence. In fact, Garrison mentioned in a round table presentation at the 2008 annual meeting of

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37 the American Educational Research Association (AERA) that these indicators might need to be revisited to ensure that they do not need to be revise d (Arbaugh et al., 2008) Tu and The Social Presence and Privacy Questionnaire Tu (2002b) criticized early research on social presence (e.g., Short et al., 1976, and even Gunawardena's 1995 study) in which researchers adopted the same semantic differential techn ique that simply had people respond to a bi polar scale. Tu argued that t his technique is not adequate to measure one's perception of social presence when it comes to CMC. He also argued that the questionnaire used by Gunawardena and Zittle (1997) failed to take into consideration different variables cited in the research (e.g. recipients, topics, privacy, task, social relationships, communication styles). As a result, Tu (2002b) developed "The Social Presence an d Privacy Questionnaire (SPPQ) 1 Tu developed the SPQQ by using parts of Steinfield's (1986) CMC attitude instrumen t and Witmer's (1997) work on privacy Tu used a panel of five qualified content experts to test the content validity of the instrument. H owever, he did not elaborate on what made the se content experts "qualified He then used 310 inservice and preservice teachers to test the construct validity. Five factors emerged from the factor analysis: social context, online communication, interactivity, system privacy, and feelings of privacy; these five factors accounted f or 82.33% of the variance with Cronbach's alpha values ranging from .74 to .85. Tu acknowledged that online privacy had a weak correlation and therefore might not need to be included as a dimension of social presence. However, he continued to use 1 In a different article, Tu (2002a) refers to the SPPQ as the CMC Questionnaire; however, he tends to refer to it more often as the SPPQ and therefore SPPQ will be used to refer to this instrument.

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38 online p rivacy as a dimension of social presence in later studies (Tu & Corry, 2004; Tu & McIsaac, 2002). Despite the strengths of his survey, Tu and McIsaac (2002) later determined as the result of a mixed method study, using the SPPQ and a dramaturgy participa nt observation qualitative approach, "there were more variables that contribute to social presence" (p. 140) than previous ly thought. Therefore, Tu and McIsaac concluded that social presence was more complicated than past research suggested. Appendix A ou tlines the new variables identified by Tu and McIsaac. Specifically, they found that the social context played a larger role than previously thought. Among other things, the preceding literature illustrates what other researchers have pointed out that the re is still little agreement on how to measure social presence (Lin, 2004; Stein & Wanstreet, 2003). Just as Tu criticize d how Gunawardena measured social presence, others have criticized and modified Tu's work (Henninger & Viswanathan, 2004). Also, while social presence has been presented as a perceptual construct, Hostetter and Busch (2006) point out that relying solely on questionnaires (i.e., self report data) can cause problems because "respondents may be providing socially desirable answers" (p. 9). Further, Kramer, Oh, and Fussell (2006) point out that self report data "are retroactive and insensitive to changes in presence over the course of an interaction [or semester]" (p. 1). But at the same time, even the scale created by Rourke et al. (2001a ) has been modified by Swan (2003) and later by Hu gh es, Ventura, and Dando (2007) for use in their own research. During the past few years, researchers have focused less on stu dying social presence by itself opting instead to study social presence as one a spect of a CoI As a result and likely due to the difficulty of coding large samples, these researchers have

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39 focused almost predominantly on studying students attitudes toward the CoI as a whole and each of the compone nts of the CoI (i.e., social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence ) In 2008, a group of researchers came together to develop an instrument to study the community of inquiry, called the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire (see Arbaugh et al., 2008; Swan et al., 2008) Table 2.3 lists the part of the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire used to assess students perceptions of social presence in a CoI (see Appendix A for the entire instrument). Table 2.3 Social Presence Dimension of the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire Affective ex pression 14. Getting to know other course participants gave me a sense of belonging in the course. 15. I was able to form distinct impressions of some course participants. 16. Online or web based communication is an excellent medium for social interaction. Open communication 17. I felt comfortable conversing through the online medium. 18. I felt comfortable participating in the course discussions. 19. I felt comfortable in teracting with other course participants. Group cohesion 20. I felt comfortable disagreeing with other course participants while still maintaining a sense of trust. 21. I felt that my point of view was acknowledged by other course participants. 22. Onlin e discussions help me to develop a sense of collaboration Over five years ago and before the work of Arbaugh et al., Russo and Benson (2005) argued that researchers need a multifaceted presence instrument, one that examines presence more than single ite ms and addresses the construct more by evaluating specific behaviors rather than a global effect" (p. 60). And wh ile Arbaugh et al. (2008) hope that the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire is a step in that direction, as a whole

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40 their survey and the resear ch in which it is used for the most part focuses on looking at the CoI as a whole rather than at its parts (e.g., social presence). In the end, though, the instrument that researchers use largely influences what they find. Therefore, any study of social presence should at least acknowledge how its methodology has been influenced by these early pioneers. Despite the varied methodologies employed and some contradictions, some trends emerge when looking at the research on social presence. The following section focuses first on the results of some research on social presence and then on some recent research focused on social presence in a CoI. Research on Social Presence Despit e the differences previously noted, researchers have identified a number of pedagogical implications in most cases, benefit s of social presence. In the following sections, the literature on social presence is summarized and synthesized around three main t hemes: (a) social presence and student satisfaction, (b) social presence and interaction, and (c) social presence and student learning. Social Presence and Student Satisfaction Over the years, a number of r esearchers have shown that there is a consisten t relationship between social presence and student satisfaction (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Hostetter & Busch, 2006; Richardson & Swan, 2003 ; So & Brush, 2008) While their conceptualization and methodology differ at times, most resear chers agree that social presence is a predictor of student satisfaction in CMC environments which in turn is a key component of online learning More specifically, in online learning environments student satisfaction has been connected to student

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41 persist ence (Levy, 2007; Willging & Johnson, 2004). Levy (2007) has shown that stude nt satisfaction is a major factor in students' decision to complete or drop" online courses (p. 198). Therefore, given the importance of student satisfaction, t he following se ction highlights a few of the main studies on social presence and student satisfaction In the 1980s and early 1990s, a number of researchers began investigating social presence and computer mediated communication (CMC) (e.g., Walther, 2002, 2004). Howev er, Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) is perhaps the earliest, most frequently cited, and foundational researcher of social presence and learning environments using CMC. Gunawardena conducted two studies with Globaled conference participants (Gunawardena, 199 5; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997). T he studies consisted of graduate students from different universities who attended the Spring 1992 and Fall 1993 Globaled computer conferences via a listserv. 2 The participants in the studies filled out qu estionnaires after they completed the conferences. Gunawardena (1995) reported that, contrary to popular opinion, CMC could be perceived as a social medium and that social presence could be cultivated. Further, she stated that, a lthough CMC is described as a medium that is low in nonverbal cues and social context cues, participants in conferences create social presence by projecting their identities and building online communities. In order to encourage interaction and collaborative learning, it is importan t that moderators of computer conferences promote the creation of conducive learning environments. (p. 163) Gunawardena and Zittle (1997), working from data collected from participants in the Fall 1993 conference, later reported that social presence was a strong predictor of student 2 It is important to highlight that the majority of the st udents in these studies completed the online learning experience (i.e., the Globaled conference) as a component of a face to face course; further, they took part in the conference via a listserv rather than a course management system like Blackboard, WebCT or eCollege.

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42 satisfaction with computer conferences. They also found that students who felt a stronger sense of social presence enhanced their socio emotional expression (e.g., through the use of emoticons) whereas those with a low sense of social presence did not. Gunawardena and Zittle concluded that social presence (and as a result student satisfaction) depends on what instructors and s tudents do rather than simply the characteristic of a CMC medium. Despite shortcomings of their research (e.g., small sample size, sample selection, course format) as well as the fact that they caution readers not to generalize their results, the work of Gunawardena (1995) and Gunawardena and Z ittle (1997) is regularly cited and generalized as foundational r esearch on social presence and CMC. Research conducted by Richardson and Swan (2003) is arguably less foundational than the work of Gunawardena and Zittle but methodologically more sound. Richardson and Swan (2003) conducted a study to investigate the rela tionship between students' perception of social presence, perceived learning, and satisfaction with their instruction. Their study consisted of 97 participants taking online courses at Empire State College, a site purposefully chosen because of its nontra ditional online program. Almost half of the students in the sample stated that it was their first online course. Richardson and Swan developed a survey based on Gunawardena and Zittle's (1997) survey and used a multiple regression to analyze the data collected from the survey Richardson and Swan (2003) found three things from their study First, they found that students with higher perceived social presence scores perceived they learned more than students with lower scores, thus indicating that ther e is "a relationship between students' perceived social presence and students' perceived learning" (p. 77). Second, they found a link between student satisfaction with their instructor and perceived

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43 learning which researchers have been finding in face to f ace settings for years. Third, they found that students with high social presence scores "were highly satisfied with their instructor" (p. 73). However, i t is important to note that they did not find a relationship between age or amount of college experien ce and social presence. Further, they concluded that online learners found the social presence of faculty and students to be an integral aspect of an online course. Other researchers (Hostetter & Busch, 2006; Russo & Benson, 2005; So & Brush, 2008 ) have found a relationship between social presence and student satisfaction in online learning environments as well. In fact, student satisfaction is the most consistent finding across all studies of social presence and CMC. However, like most findings on socia l presence, there always seems to be at least one study that contradicts the findings of others. For instance, Joo, Lim, & Kim (2011) recently sought to investigate the structural relationships betwee n perceived level of presence, perceived usefulness and e ase of online tools, and learner satisfaction and persist ence at a South Korean online university (p. 1654). They administered two different surveys resulting in 709 responses. While t hey found teaching presence had a significant e ffect on both social pre sence and cognitive presence (which suggests how a course is designed and facilitated effects social presence), they also found that contrary t o previous studies, social presence was not a significant predictor of satisfaction. Further research though is n eeded to see if this study is an outlier or if perhaps students perceptions of social presence and its relationship to satisfaction is changing. While student satisfaction does not equal student learning, it is a necessary component of a successful learni ng environment. Further, online learning has a history of

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44 having a higher dropout rate than face to face courses (Levy, 2007) as well as being characterized as involving more work t han traditional face to face courses. Thus, it is imperative for online ins tructors to recognize the important role student satisfaction can play in online learning environments. If students are not satisfied, they will presumably not log on to their online course and therefore will not successfully complete their online course o r learn the required material. Another important component to student learning online is interaction. The following section will address the relationship between interaction and social presence. Social Presence and Interaction Interaction is a key component of any learning environment (Dunlap, Sobel, & Sands, 2007). Interaction and online learning has specifically received a great deal of attention over the years (Anderson, 2006; Anderson & Garrison, 1998 ; McIsaac, Blocher, Mahe s, & Vrasidas, 1999; Moore, 1989; Moore & Kearsely, 2005; Vrasidas & Glass, 2002; Wagne r, 1994) Interaction has been defined in a number of ways. According to Wagner (1994), interaction is simply "reciprocal events that require at least two objects and tw o actions. Interactions occur when these objects and events mutually influence one another" (p. 8). Interaction that is, reciprocal events can occur in many different forms in an online environment. Moore (1989) was the first to identify three main types o f interaction in distance education: (a) learner to content interaction, (b) learner to instructo r interaction, (c) and learner to l earner interaction. Later researchers identified additional types of interaction found in online lea rning environments: (a) teacher to teacher, (b) teacher to content, (c) content to co ntent, (d) learner to technology, and (e) teacher to technology (Anderson,

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45 2003, 2006; Anderson & Kuskis, 2007; Shank, 2004). Each of these is an important component of any online learning enviro nment. Furthermore, each of these types of interaction can influence social presence. However, l earner to instructor and learner to learner interaction are the most germane; of the two, learner to learner interaction has received the most attention. Rese archers have shown that learner to learner interaction is a critical component in online learning (Richardson & Swan, 2003). Learner to learner interaction is motivating and stimulating for students (Moore & Kearsley, 2005). Further, social presence is dir ectly related to learner to learner interaction (Tu, 2000). S tudents are perceived as being there as a result of their online interactions with their peers; if they do not interact with their peers and instructors they are not perceived as being there or connecting with their peers or in structors Therefore, in this section, I will summarize a few key studies about social presence and interaction. Tu and McIsaac (2002) conducted a mixed methods study with 43 graduate students in an online course. They foun d that social presence influences online interaction. More specifically, they found that social presence is necessary for social interaction However, they also found that the quantity or frequency of participation online did not directly relate to social presence. That is, interacting more did not necessarily increase one's social presence. Finally, they found that group size in synchronous discussions influenced how much students interacted with others online. As a result of their study, Tu and McIsaac (2002) argue d that students need to establish trust "before attaining a higher level of social presence" ( p. 142). They also found that informality helped increase social presence. But most importantly, they

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46 concluded that it is not the quantity but the qu ality of interactions online that make the difference. Like Tu and McIsaac, Swan and Shih (2005) also discovered some interesting relationships between social presence and interaction. The participants in their study came from four online graduate educational technology courses; 51 students completed an online questionnaire [based on Richardson and Swan's (2003) previous survey that was b ased on the instrument developed by Gunawardena and Zittle ]. After the survey was completed, the 5 students with the highest and the 5 students with the lowest social presence scores were identified, their postings were analyzed, and then they were interviewed. Content analysis was used to explore the d iscussion postings using the indicators developed by Rourke et al. (2001 a ). Like Tu and McIsaac (2002), Swan and Shih found that students who interacted more in the discussion forums were not necessarily perceived as having the most social presence; rath er, students who were more socially orientated, even if they interacted less than others, were perceived as having greater social presence. Swan and Shih argued that this supports the idea that perceived presence is not directly linked to how much one part icipates online. Further, they found that s tudents perceiving the most social presence of others were also the ones who successfully projected their own presence into the discussions. Swan and Shih concluded that students projected their presence online by sharing something of themselves with their classmates, by viewing their class as a community, and by acknowledging and building on the responses of others" (p. 124) rather than simply posting more than others Therefore, this research suggests that the quality of online postings matters more than the quantity when it comes to social

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47 presence. Finally, unlike earlier research (e.g., Richardson & Swan 2003 ), Swan and Shih found that the age of participants did matter More specifically, they found that y ounger students were more comfortable with online disc ussions than older students and that students over the age of 45 did not bond well with other (younger) students (p. 123). Even so, t he se differences could be due to t he different samples; further, find ings such as these are likely to diminish over time, as more and more people of all ages spend time online. It is very possible that the occurrence of contradictory findings, like these about age and social presence, arise because researchers have studied social presence in very different contexts, with very different course formats, and very different groups of students and instructors. Tu and McIsaac (2002) have already shown the important role social c ontext plays in social presence. Therefore, while ag e might diminish as a significant variable over time, course format (e.g., hybrid vs. predominantly asynchronous vs. predominantly synchronous), length of term subject of study, and students' experience with online courses might continue to influence how social presence is perceived, maintained, and enhanced in online learning environments. Perhaps the most important research conducted on social presence has focused on student learning. But just like previous research, researchers studying social presence and student learning have found mixed and contradictory results. Social P resence and S tudent L earning Very few researchers have investigated the relationship of social presence and student learning That is, of the over 100 studies conducted on social presence, less than a handful of studies have focused on student learning ( Picciano, 2002 ; Wise et al., 2004 )

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48 and the majority that have only focused on perceived learning ( e.g., Richardson & Swan, 2003 ). This is not though, simply a trend restricted to research on social presence and online learning. Tallent Runnels et al. (2006) have shown that generally speaking, "few studies actually focus on instruction and learning online" (p. 116). This is most likely due to the difficulty of measuring student learning (Fryshman, 2008). Because students are complex creatures with vastly different backg rounds and experiences, it is often difficult to determine what was learned specifically as the result of what happened in a given course. As a result, most researchers who do focus on student learning actually operationalize it as student performance on c ourse assessments. This is true of Picciano (2002) and Wise et al. (2004), the two researchers who have studied social presence and student learning. Picciano (2002) was one of the first to investigate social presence and student learning. He was interest ed specifically in the relationship between social presence, student interaction and performance, and student perceptions of social presence and actual participation. Participants in Picciano's study came from one completely online asynchronous graduate e ducation course. The 23 participants in the study were teachers seeking a school administrator certification for the state of New York; they all had at least five years teaching experience and a MA (Picciano, 2002). Only eight of the 23 students had taken an online course before. It is also important to note that the World Trade Center was attacked during week two of this course ; the attack on the World Trade Center had a great impact on people across the world but especially in New York. Therefore, it is likely that the emotional distress felt by many Americans during this time

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49 could have impacted the results of this study and the social presence of the participants online. Picciano (2002) collected three different types of data First, he calculated how often students participated in the course discussions. However, interestingly, he chose not to count "one line me too' postings and social messages" (p. 29); instead he wanted to focus on "substantive comments." Given the importance "me too" postings a nd "social comments" can play in social presence, this decision likely skewed the results. He also administered a student satisfaction survey questions coming from both the Inventory of Presence Questionnaire developed by the Presence Research Working Gr oup and Tu's Social Presence and Privacy Questionnaire (SPPQ). Then, finally, he collected scores from an exam and a written assignment. The exam was a multiple choice exam designed to explore 13 issues the course focused on. The written assignment was a case study. Picciano created three groups low, moderate, and high of student interaction and then three groups of social presence (based on the survey). He then calculated correlations of student interaction and the scores on the exam and the written as signment as well as social presence and the performance on the exam and the written assignment. Due to sample size, Picciano only used basic descriptive statistics (i.e., means and correlations) to analyze his data. Regarding student perceptions of intera ction and learning, Picciano (2002) found that "there is a strong, positive relationship between student perceptions of their interaction in the course and their perceptions of the quality and quantity of their learning" (p. 28). Further, there was a posit ive relationship between student perceptions of interaction, social presence, and their performance. However, he found that perceived

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50 performance and actual performance differed. T o investigate actual student interaction and performance, he found that act ual student interaction had no relationship to the performance o n the exam but did have a relationship to the written assignment for the highly interactive gro up Finally, regarding social presence and performance, he found a positive statistical relatio nship between social presence and the written assignment (.5467) but not a positive statistically significant relationship between social presence and the performance on the exam ( .3570). Wise et al. (2004) also investigated student learning and social p resence. Unlike Picciano ( 2002) Wise et al. used an experimental research design that looked at how social presence is related to learning in s elf paced, one to one mentoring supported, online courses. That is, rather than using one online course that relies heavily on student to student discussions, Wise et al. focused on self paced online courses designed for teacher professional development. These were self paced courses typically compl eted in a 12 week time period. H owever, participants in this stu dy had to complete them in 6 weeks because it was an assignment for a nother course they were taking. Twenty students taking a graduate course called Elementary and Secondary School Curriculum took part in the study; half of the participants had teaching experience and half did not. The students with teaching experience were randomly assigned to either a high or low social presence condition; the students without teaching experience were evenly distributed among the conditions (Wise et al.). For each condition, two instructors were randomly assigned to five students (p. 255). The instructors had been train ed on social presence cues which included the indicators developed by Rourke et al. (2001);

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51 they varied the social presence cues they used based on the condition they were assigned to. The researc hers physically went to student s courses to solicit their participation. Students then completed a pre assessment survey which focused on demographics and learning intentions. Then after the course was over, they had students complete a survey. They did not include the survey in their article, and they never ex plicitly said how the survey was constructed. They calculated message length as well as level of student social presence by analyzing student messages with a type of content analysis. Then the final assignment of the course which was a lesson plan on int egrating technology was assessed by two raters using a rubric. They found that students in the high social presence condition replied with messages twice as long as those of students in the low social presence condition. F urther, students in the high soc ial presence condition tended to show a higher degree of social presence in the content of their messages to the instructors. However, Wise et al. did not find a statistically significant relationship between how students performed on the final assignmen t of the course and the social presence condition. Further, unlike previous studies, they did not find a significant effect between the condition and student satisfaction or the condition and perceived learning. These findings led Wise et al. (2004) to co nclude the following: Social presence impacts the atmosphere of the course as indexed by the perceptions of the instructor and the nature of the interaction, but there is no identifiable effect on the overall impact of the course as indexed by learning or perceived learning, engagement, or satisfaction. (p. 262)

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52 While Wise et al. try to make sense of their results, they never acknowledge how certain issues such as unique course format, limited time frame, lack of other students (to name just a few) might h ave skewed their results. While Picciano (2002) and Wise et al. (2004) directly investigate d social presence and student learning (which they operationalize as student performance on specific assignments), other researchers have investigated social pres ence and student perceived learning. For instance, as mentioned earlier, Richardson and Swan (2003) conducted a study in which they found that students who were identified with higher social presence perceived they learned more than those with lower socia l presence. They also found a relationship between student satisfaction with their instructor and perceived learning. Russo and Benson (2005) also found a statistically significant relationship between student perceptions of their own presence and the po ints they earned in a class. However, Hostetter and Busch (2006) did not find a relationship between student s perception of presence and learning outcomes Inconsistencies such as these, as well as those between Picciano and Wise et al., suggest that the findings on social presence and student learning are inconclusive. Despite previous researchers efforts like those just described researchers such as Rourke and Kanuka (2009) have been critical of research on social presence and the CoI as a whole for not spending enough time showing whether or not teaching presence and social presence actually influence student learning. But despite some of the inconsis tences reported so far, research suggests social presence plays an important role in online courses.

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53 Establishing and Maintaining Social Presence Despite some mixed results, social presence appears to be related to student satisfaction, student interaction online, students' sense of community, as well as possibly student learning. Therefore, as the num ber of students taking courses online increases each year (Allen & Seaman, 2010 ), it is critical to better understand how social presence is established and maintained in online learning environments. The categories and indicators deve loped by Rourke et al. (2001a) and later expanded upon by Swan (2003) can be seen as guidelines for establishing social presence. For instanc e, if the expression of emotions the use of humor, or self disclosure are indicators of social presence then it is reasonable to expect that if one expresses his or her emotions more, uses humor, and self discloses information then he or she will be able to establish social presence. Further, research suggests (e.g., Wise et al., 2004) that social presence behaviors engender more social presence. Thus, indicators like those listed in Table 2.4 should then be seen as guidelines for establishing social presence. Table 2.4 Strategies to establish and develop social presence Categories Indicators Strategies Affective Emotions Humor Self disclos ure Value Paralanguage Express emotions Use humor Self disclose personal infor mation Express personal values Use features of text, like emoticons to express emotion

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54 Table 2.4 (con't.) Cohesive Greetings & salutations Vocatives Group reference Social sharing Self reflection Greet other students Address students by name Use inclusi ve pronouns like "we," and "us" Share personal information Reflect on the course openly Interactive Acknowledgement Disagreement Approval Invitation Personal advice Refer directly to othe rs' postings Agree or disagree with others' postings Express approval Ask questions Offer advice to peers Note. From Developing Social Presence in Online Course Discussions ," by K. Swan, 2003 in S. Naidu (Ed .), Learning and Teaching with Technology: Principles and Practices ( pp. 147 164 ). London: Kogan Page Synthesizing past literature (which included the work of Rourke et al.), Aragon (2003) identified a similar list of strategies on how to establish s ocial presence. Aragon identified three components to establishing social presence online: (a) the role of course design, (b) the role of the instructor, and (c) the role of the participants (see Table 2.5 ) Aragon's three components to establishing social presence are similar to the three types of presence social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presen ce of the CoI f ramework developed by Garrison et al. (2000). Aragon's strategies for instructors though are not simply what Garrison et al. w ould call "teachi ng presence" strategies in the CoI framework

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55 Table 2.5 Strategies to Establish and Maintain Social Presence Course Design Instructors Participants Develop welcome messages Include student profiles Incorporate audio Limit class size Structure collaborative learning activities Contribute to discussion boards Promptly answer e mail Provide frequent feedback Strike up a conversation Share pe rsonal stories & experiences Use humor Use emoticons Address students by name A llow students options for addressing the instructor Contribute to discus sion boards Promptly answer e mail Strike up a conversation Share personal stories and experiences Use humor Use emoticons Use appropriate titles Note. From Creating Social Presence in Online Environments ," by S. R. Aragon 2003, in, New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 100 (pp. 57 68 ). Certain strategies such as "sharing personal experiences and stories" are more of a type of social presence strategy used by instructors. This is important because the CoI traditionally does not differentiate between how a student and how an instructor establishes his or her social presence. Swan and Shih (2005) though pointed out that there are some differences between the t wo. And Nippard and Murphy (2007), who sought to investigate how teachers and students manifest social presence in synchronous web based secondary classrooms, found that in their study students and instructors did in fact engage in different social presen ce behaviors.

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56 Some question whether there may be an optimal level of social presence (Garrison & Anderson, 2003; Wise et al., 2004). For instance, Garrison and Anderson posit that too little social presence can prevent a learning community from forming but too much social presence may reduce student learning by discouraging critical discourse (Garrison & Anderson 2003 ). Conjectures such as these might suggest that w hile it might be important to focus on establishing social presence early in a course, it mi ght be less important later on in the course. Dunlap and Lowenthal (2010) though, have argued based on their experience that it is important to continue to maintain social presence throughout the duration of an online course. M ixed results arise, though on how social presence is maintained throughout the duration of a course. For instance, the research of Rourke et al. (2001 a ) suggests that purely social communication decreases over time. However, Stacey (2002) later found in her study that purely social comm unication did not decrease but actually increased over time; a s a result, she concluded that social relationships require continuation of social presence factors through a much longer period, as one semester is only the beginning of group formation o nline" (p. 150). But then to confuse ma t ters even more, Swan (2003) later found that "although the use of affective indicators mirrored the general flow of the course discussions as the course progressed, cohesive indicators declined in importance, while the importance of interactive indicators increased" (pp. 161 162). This possibly suggests that different types of social presence behaviors serve different functions and vary across time. For instance, Lomicka and Lord (2007) who studied how foreign langua ge graduate students established and maintained social presence through weekly

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57 journal activities found that the type of task influenced the type of presence used by students. Some Gaps in the Literature Despite the popularity of social presence research, a number of gaps in the literature remain. As researchers and practitioners continue to rely on theories and research on social presence to influence their practice, it is imperative to address some of these gaps. In the follow ing section, I will briefly describe a few of these gaps that future research needs to address. First, as indicated throughout this chapter, previous researchers have found mixed and contradictory results. For instance, some studies have found a strong relationship between student s atisfaction and social presence (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Richardson & Swan, 2003), but other studies have not ( Joo, Lim, & Kim, 2011; Wise et al., 2004). Some studies have found a relationship between social presence and student perf ormance (whether perceived or actual) (Picciano, 2002; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Russon & Benson, 2004) while others have not ( Hostetter & Busch, 2006; Wise et al., 2004). Fi nally, some studies have found that social presence changes over time (Rourke et al ., 20 01a; Swan, 2003 ) while others have not ( Lomicka & Lord, 2007 ; Stacey, 2002). Recently, Akyol, Vaughan, and Garrison (2011) sought to investigate how time effects the development of a CoI They studied the CoI in a 6 week and a 13 week online course. They reported that an "independent samples t test revealed statistically signi!cant di erences between the short and long term courses on a ective communication . and group cohesion (Akyol et al., p. 235). More specifically and to their surprise b ecause conventional wisdom suggests that more time is need ed to

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58 develop group cohesion they found that students messages in the 6 week course included more group cohesion indicators than the students' messages in the 13 week course. At the same time, ther e were more affective indicators in the 13 week course than the 6 week course. Second, conclusions are drawn and assumptions made about the nature of social presence from research conducted on vastly different types of online courses For instance, researc hers have failed to re cognize how the socio cultural context and course format effects social presence. For instance, researchers (e.g., Tu, 2001; Wise et al., 2004) have conducted a number of studies on social presence in which the teacher had face to fac e meetings with students; meetings like these will have lik ely impacted the development and perception of social presence. This is not to suggest that meeting face to face with online students is a poor decision but rather that it can influence students perceptions and therefore should only be compared to other instances where faculty meet face to face with their students. In other cases researchers have studied social presence in non traditional courses. For instance, Gunawardena (1995; Gunawardena & Z ittle, 1997) studied social presence in a computer conference administered through a listserv, Tu (2001; 2002a) studied social presence in face to face courses using CMC as well as televised courses and Wise et al. (2004) studied social presence in six we ek self paced course s. While it is important to understand how social presence is developed and maintained in these nontraditional types of online courses, it is even more important to recognize how social presence might change across a variety of differen t online learning formats and contexts. For instance, Lowenthal, Wilson, and Parrish (2009 ) have argued about the importance context plays in

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59 online learning. And both Arbaugh, Bangert, and Cleveland Innes (2010) and Gorsky, Caspi, Antonovsky, Blau, and Ma nsur (2010) have recently found some int eresting differences in student s perceptions of the CoI across academic disciplines. Third, the only relationship found between social presence and actual student learning (as opposed to perceived student learning) comes from a study that was conducted in New York City during the attack on the World Trade Center (Picciano, 2002) ; there is reason to believe that a tragic event such as this could have skewed the results. Further, Picciano (2002) only found a statistic al relationship with one of his measures of student learning and social presence. However, on the other hand as already mentioned a number of researchers ( Picciano, 2002; Richardson & Swan, 2003; Russon & Benson, 2004 ) have found a relationship between so cial presence and perceived learning. Differences and issues like this illustrate that questions remain about the relationship of student learning both actual and perceived and social presence. Fourth, and finally, the majority of past research on social presence has heavily relied on survey data to study soc ial presence. Studying students' perceptions of social presence is important. However, relying only on self report data can be problematic because students might be simply providing socially desirable answers (Hostetter & Busch, 2006, p. 9). Further, self report data tend to be collected at one period during a semester and therefore cannot show change over time ( Kramer, Oh, & Fussell, 2006). Unfortunately, though, compared to studies using only self rep ort data, few researchers (e.g. Delfino & Manca, 2007 ; Hughes et al., 2007; Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003 ) have actually analyzed online discussions when studying social presence. But if researchers want to understand better how social presence develops, is maintained, and

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60 changes over a course, they must begin to look at what is said and done in threaded d iscussions the primary avenue for interaction. Chapter Summary Researchers and practitioners alike seem fascinated by the concept of social presence. I have found over a 100 articles on the subject. However, like most research on online learning (Bernard et al, 2004; Tallent Runnels, 2006), research on social presence and online learning is of mixed quality. Even though initial research suggests that social presence is related to student satisfaction, student interaction, and student learning, many questio ns remain. In the next chapter, Chapter 3, I will outline the methods used for this study. Then in Chapter 4 I go over the results of the study and I conclude in Chapter 5 with a discussion of the results.

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61 CHAPTER 3 METHOD T he purpose of this study is to explore the phenomena of social presence in an o nline graduate level education course at the University of Colorado Denver To accomplish this, I utilize d a mixed rese arch methods approach that employed both quantitative and qualitative methods to understand better social presence. In the following chapter I elaborate on the methods used for this study. Research Questions Research questions h elp narrow the focus of a study by providing a framework, set ting boundaries, and giv ing rise to the type of data that w ill be collected ( Cresswell & Plano Clark, 2007) The following research question guide d this exploratory study : How does social presence manifest in a n asynchronous, online graduate education course? Research Design M ixed methods research has become popular over the past few years (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2006). Around the same time, r esearchers of CMC (e.g., Goldman, Crosby, Swan, & Shea, 2005 ; Gunawardena, Lowe, & Anderson, 1997 ; Hiltz & Arbaugh, 2003) began arguing ab out the importance of using multiple methods when studying the complexity of asynchronous learning environments However, to date the majority of research on social presence has utilized either a quantitative or qualitative approach, which conceivably limi ts researchers interpretation of the data and understanding of the phenomenon. I utilized a mixed methods research design in this study. T he purpose of using a mixed methods approach wa s to facilitate the richness of data and expand the

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62 interpretation of t he findings (Collins, Onwuegbuzie, & Sutton, 2006; Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2004) as well as to answer the research question that guided this study Sample Researchers differentiate between sampling schemes and sampling designs (Onwuegbuzie & Collins, 2007; O nwuegbuzie & Leech, 2007b). Thus, I elaborate below on the sampling scheme and the sampling design used in this study. Sampling Scheme The goal of this study was to gain insights into a phenomenon (i.e., social presence) rather than to generalize finding s to a population. In situations like these, Onwuegbuzie and Collins (2007) argue that a purposeful sample should be used Therefore, a non random (non probability) criterion sampling scheme was used in this study. A section of EDLI 7210 Educational Polic y Making for a Democratic Society which was taught in the spring of 2007 at the University of Colorado Denver was identified as an appropriate sample for this study. This course was selected for a number of reasons. First, this course was a fully online course. While it is helpful to study social presence in hybrid or televised courses, the focus of this study is on the nature of social presence in fully online courses. Second, this course was an asynchronous, instruc tor facilitated, onlin e course the most popular type of online course in higher education. And third, this was an education course. Recognizing that CMC is always socially situated ( Herring, 2004 ), t he goal of this study was to study social presence in an education setting lik e the majority of previous research on social presence (Lowenthal, Lowenthal, & White, 2009).

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63 Nineteen graduate students were enrolled in the course. The following course description describes the basic focus of the course : This course examines the role and impact of policy and policy processes in educational organizations. Models will be developed to analyze the nature of policy, how policy processes work, conceptualizations of and research on these, and their implications for improving educational pract ices to benefit student learning and other organizational behaviors and outcomes. The study of policy and policy processes will be facilitated by several activities that will familiarize you with various perspectives on, models of, and research about the i nitiation of policy issues, the processes of implementation and evaluation, and their outcomes and effects. Collaboration, group work, and research are emphasized. The learni ng objectives of the course are : 1. To read critical ly a variety of works on policy making processes and outcomes 2. To develop skills as a policy analyst and advocate 3. To develop appreciation for and use of various policy models, policy research, and policy effects The following are the main assignments of the course ( see Table 3.1 for a description of each assignment ): Reading logs A policy critique An observation A book review A personal professional task A small group project Online interactivity and quality of work

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64 Table 3.1 Assignment Descriptions Individual and Group Assignment s Individual Assignments Policy Critique (8.47% 11.8% of course grade): Write a five page (or less) double spaced paper assessing the goals (intended), trends, conditions, projections, alternatives relative to a local, regional, or state educational policy. Observatio n (8.47% 11.8% of course grade): First o bserve and analyze a policy process (sc hool board meeting, city: council, st ate legislature, county commission) Then write a 2 3 page analysis of their observation Book Review (8.47% 11.8% of course grade): S elect a book related to policy studies and write a 3 5 page review. Online Interactivity and Quality of Work (16.95% of course grade) : L ogin regularly, take part in threaded discussions, and produce quality work. Group Assignments Readin g Logs (15.25% of course grade): Discuss readings in small groups Then write nine reading logs summarizing the readings and posing questions for the instructor. Personal Profession al Task (12.7% of course grade): In a group of two, take some risk and discuss deeply important individual personal professional goals. A nalyze trends that facilitate o r impede each other's goal achievement. Then write a 3 5 page paper summarizing his or her partner's self analysis and plan. Small Group P roject (23.73% of course grade): Working in small groups of 4 5 students, st udy a policy at the local, state, or nationa l level Then write a 10 15 page double spaced group paper employing a qualitative approach to collecting data that informs their critical analysis of the policy In addition to the assignments, a number of different types of discussions were conducted in the course The most active discussions were the "General Discussion Forum," "Reading Groups," "Reading Log Discussion Forum," "Pairs," and finally "Project Groups" ( which everyone but the "General Discussion Forum" was directly tied to key assignments )

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65 Sampling Design Social presence researchers who study online course discussions historically only analyze a small sample of course discussions. For instance, Rourke et al. (2001a) only analyzed one week of discussions in two different cour ses in their foundational study, which consisted of 134 messages or 30,392 words. Swan (2003) analyzed 235 posts with an average number of words per posting at 82.4 (which she explained was 10% of the entire courses discussions). And then Hughes et al. (2007) analyzed three different groups of students with a total of 974 messages or 63,655 words. For this study, I chose to analyze every threaded discussion in the course using content analysis, which consisted of 1,822 posts or 160,091 words (see Table 3. 2 ). Then based on the results of the content analysis, two specific t hreaded discussions (which span multiple weeks of the class) were identified one with the highest social pres ence indicators (which was Pair 9) and one with the l owest social presence ind icators (which was Reading Group E) and analyzed using constant comparison analysis in an effort to explore better the phenomenon of social presence. It is important to note that for the purpose of this study, all discussion forums in the course are refer red to as "threaded discussions" regardless of their purpose the level of dialogue or the amount of interaction between the instructor and the students.

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66 Table 3. 2 Threaded Discussions Raw Data Discussion Name # of Participants # of Posts # of Words Virtual Office 7 44 2560 Ge neral Syllabus 14 48 3294 General Groups 6 14 639 General Independent Work 3 3 155 General Individual Work 2 2 84 A dult Learning Discussion Forum Your Learning 7 12 456 A dult Learning Discussion Forum Questionnaire #1 3 3 221 A: Reading Group A 4 125 7828 B: Reading Group B 5 132 11677 C: Reading Group C 4 95 8452 D: Reading Group D 4 109 12562 E: Reading Group E 5 40 5235 F: Reading Group F 4 106 10916 G: Reading Group G 5 103 8116 Pair 1 3 32 2028 Pair 2 3 40 6222 Pair 3 3 45 3000 Pair 4+ 4 6 248 Pair 5 3 30 2232 Pair 6 3 28 1453 Pair 7 3 26 2687 Pair 8 3 21 3658 Pair 9 3 15 2909 Pair 10 2 22 2129 Plus Delta Week2 8 13 866 Plus Delta Week 3 8 22 2375 Plus Delta Week 4 2 2 299 Plus Delta Week 5 2 2 109 Plus Delta Week 6 3 3 234 Project Group 1 5 109 12673 Project Group 2 5 180 15322 Project Group 3 5 138 8404 Project Group 4 5 113 6791 Project Group 5 4 126 12380 Reading Log 1 5 12 1364 Reading Log 3 1 1 513 Total 156 1822 160,091 Note The d iscussion names were copied exactly as they were worded in the online course. If a discussion did not have any posts (e.g., Reading Log 2), it was not listed.

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67 Data Collection The data for this study were collected from the asynchronous threaded discussions from an online course tau ght in eCollege a learning management system used at the University of Colorado Denver. While the course was taught in 2007, an archived copy of the course is stored in eCollege. Archived copies of course discussions like these, "provide readily accessible records of the evolution of social relationships in online classes" (Goldman, Crosby, Swan, & Shea, 2005, p. 109). The course discussions were copied from eCollege to Microsoft Word; each discussion was saved as its own file. Student names were replaced with pseudonyms and the files were imported into NVivo 8. Data Analysis Initially when researchers began studying o nline discussions, they focused on the frequency of participation (Henri, 1992). In fact, researcher s have only relatively recently begun to move beyond the basics (e.g., frequency of student participation, the level of i nteraction, and message length) to focus instead on studying the content of messages online (Pena Shaff & Nicholls 2004). When resear chers began focusing on analyzing the content of messages, they turned to content analysis (De Wever, Schellens, Valcke, & Keer, 2006). In this study, though, I used three types of analysis to analyze the data: (a) word count, (b) content analysis, and (c ) constant comparison analysis ( Leech & Onwuegbu zie, 2007; see Table 3. 3 ).

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68 Table 3. 3 Overview of Data Analysis Research Question: How does social presence manifest in a graduate education asynchronous online course? Data Analysis Type of Data Purpose of Results Word Count (Quantitative) Content Analysis (Quantitative) Constant Comparative Analysis (Qualitative) DD DDD All course discussions All course discussions One discussion thread with high social presence & one with low social presence Explore the frequency of top words used Explore the presence and frequency of categories and indicators of social presence. Identify codes, groups, and themes in the data missed by content analysis. Word Count Traditionally word count involves identifying deductively a word or words from the literature on a subject or inductively identifying from the data specific words that seem out of place or hold special meaning and then counting the frequency of these words. For the pu rpose of this study, word count was used solely as a way to initially explore the data primarily by looking for the frequency of and more importantly the type of words used in the online discussions. NVivo 8 can quickly and efficiently calculate word counts Word count is an effective initial way to analyze data by exploring the occurrence of words in a data set. The assumption with word counts, a ccording to Leech and Onwuegbu zie (2007), "is that more important and significant words for the person wi ll be used more often" (p. 568). However, it is important to acknowledge that word count has some limitations (e.g., it can decontextualize a word and its meaning ) (Leech &

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69 Onwuegbuzie) T herefore word count should not be used as the only method to anal yze data. And for this study, it was used solely as an initial method to identify if certain types of words (e.g., student names or greetings and salutations which are indicators of social presence) were used more than others. Content Analysis In the soc ial sciences, content analysis has been the leading method used by researchers to analyze text (Carley, 1993). Content analysis is understood and defined in a number of different ways. For instance, Berelson (1952) defined it as "a research technique for the objective, systematic, quantitative description of the manifest content of communication" (p. 519). But then Holsti (1969) defined it as "any technique for making inferences by objectively and systematically identifying specified characteristics of me ssages" (p. 14). Finally, Carley (1993) explains that "content analysis focuses on the frequency with which words or concepts occur in texts or across texts" (p. 81). Regardless of how one defines it, t he purpose of content analysis "is to reveal informa tion that is not situated at the surface of the transcripts" (De Wever, Schellens, Valcke, & Van Keer, 2006, p. 7). For this study, I followed the following five st eps identified by Herring (2004 ) : 1. The researcher formulates a research question and/or hypo theses 2. The research er selects a sample 3. Categories are defined for coding 4. Coders are trained, code the content, and the reliability of their coding is checked 5. The data collected during the coding process are analyzed and interpreted.

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70 I turned to the liter ature at step number three to identify categories for coding. I first looked at the broad categories of the CoI framework developed by Garrison et al. (2000). Garrison et al. identified three categories of social presence namely, emotional expression, ope n communication, and group cohesion. At that time, they only identified some possible examples of indicators for each category (see Table 3 4 ) I then refe rred to the work of Rourke et al. (2001a ) 3 in which Garrison and his colleagues more fully developed the categories and indicators o f social presence. Table 3. 4 Original Social Presence Categories and Example Indicators Element Category Examples of Indicators Social Presence Emotional Expression Open Communication Group Cohesion Emotions Risk free expression Encouraging collaboration Rourke et al. changed the names of the categories from Emotional Expression to Affective Responses, Open Communication to Interactive Responses, and Group Cohesion to Cohesive Responses. They also identified specific indicators for each category of social presence as well as definitions of each indicator (see Table 3. 5 ). 3 Please note that some uncertainty exists regarding the original date of Rourke et al.'s article entitled "Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text based Computer Conferencing." I personally have a hard copy in which the publication i s listed as 1999 and another as 2001. Researchers tend to cite it both ways. I contacted Liam Rourke to get some clarification but he simply replied that he was not sure but that he thought 2001 might be correct. I reference it as 2001 for the purpose of t his study.

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71 Table 3. 5 Rourke et al.'s Categories and Indicators of Social Presence Category Indicators Definition of Indicators Affective Responses (originally "Emotional Expression") Expression of emotions Conventional expressions of emotion, or unconventional expressions of emotion, includes repetitious punctuation, conspi cuous capitalization, emoticons Use of Humor Teasing, cajoling, irony, understatements, sarcasm Self Disclosure Presents details of life outside of cl ass, or expresses vulnerability Interactive Responses (originally "Open Communication") Continuing a Thread Using reply feature of software, ra ther than starting a new thread Quoting from Other Messages Using software features to quote others entire message or cutting and pasti ng sections of others' messages Referring explicit ly to other messages Direct references to contents of others' posts Asking questions Students ask questions of other students or the moderator Complimenting, expressing appreciation Complimenting others or contents of others' messages Expressing agreement Expressing agreement with others or content of others' messages Cohesive Responses (originally "Group Cohesion") Vocatives Addressing or referring to participants by name Addresses or refers to the group using inclusive pronouns Addresses the group as we, us, our, group Phatics/ Salutations Communication that serves a purely social function; greetings, closures Note. From "Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text based Computer Conferencing," by L. Rourke, D. R. Garrison, and W. Archer, 2001a, in Journal of Distance Education 14. Swan (2003 ) however, later made some changes to the list of indicators namely Swan simplified the interactive indicators but elaborated on the affective indicators (see

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72 Table 3. 6 ). Finally, Hughes et al. ( 2007 ) replicated Rourke et al.'s ( 2001a ) work but apparently were unaware of Swan's previous study. They too made some changes to the indicators of social presence originally developed by Rourke et al. but some that were different than Swan. Faced with this evolution of social pr esence indicators (see Table 3. 6 ), I decided to integrate t he changes both Swan and Hughes et al. made to the social presence indicators (see Table 3.7). I used this initial combined list of indicators during the first training session with one of two coders. During the training sessions, it became apparent that t he list of indicators needed to be amended. Table 3. 6 Evolution of the Indicators of Social Presence Rourke et al. (2001a) Swan (2003) Hughes et al. (2007) Categories & Indicators Categories & Indicators Categories & Indicators Affective Responses Affective Responses Affective Expression of emotions Use of Humor Self Disclosure Paralanguage Emotion Value Humor Self Disclosure Expression of emotion Use of Humor Self Disclosure Interactive Responses Interactive Responses Interactive Continuing a Thread Quoting from Other Messages Referring explicitly to other messages Asking questions Complimenting, expressing appreciation Expressing agreement Acknowledgement Disagreement Approval Invitation Personal Advice Referring to other's me ssages Asking Questions Complimenting, expressing appreciation Expressing Agreement Cohesive Responses Cohesive Responses Cohesive Vocatives Addresses or refers to the group using inclusive pronouns Phatics / Salutations Greetings & Salutations Vocatives Group Reference Social Sharing Self reflection Vocatives Expresses group inclusivity Phatics / Salutations Embracing the Group

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73 Table 3. 7 Swan & Hughes et al. Combined List of Categories and Indicators of Social Presence Category & Indicator Definition (Swan) Criteria (Hughes) Affective Responses Paralanguage Features of text outside formal syntax used to convey emotion (i.e., emoticons, exaggerated punctuation or spelling) Emotion Use of descriptive words that indicate feelings (i.e., love, sad, hate, silly); conventional or unconventional expression of emotions Refers directly to an emotion or an emoticon. Use of capitalization only if obviously intended Value Expressing personal values, beliefs, and attitudes Humor Use of humor jok ing, teasing, cajoling, irony, sarcasm, understatement Only code if a clear indication that this is meant to be funny, e.g., extra punctuation or an emoticon Self Disclosure Sharing personal information, expressing vulnerability or feelings An expression that may indicate an emotional state but does not directly refer to it. Uncertainty, non comprehension Interactive Responses Acknowledgement Referring directly to the contents of others' messages; quoting from others' messages agreement Explicit or implicit recognition that another message has been the motivation for this message Agreement / Disagreement Expressing agreement or disagreement with other's messages Expressing agreement with each other or contents of messages Approval Expressing approval, offering praise, encouragement Invitation Asking questions or otherwise inviting response. Students ask questions of each other or moderator Personal Advice Offering specific advice to classmates Compliment ing, expressing appreciation Complimenting, expressing appreciation Complimenting or showing appreciation of each other or contents of messages

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74 Table 3.7 (con't.) Cohesive Responses Greetings & Salutations / Phatics Greetings, closures. Communication that serves a purely social function Vocatives Addressing or referring to classmates by name Gr oup Reference / inclusivity Referring to the group as we ," us ," our ." Addresses the group as a possessed or as a whole Any reference to the group with a possessive pronoun Social Sharing Sharing information unrelated to the course Not really about yourself but more of a social response Self reflection Reflection on the course itself, a kind of self awareness of the group Embracing the Group Revealing life outside the group Any expression that lets the group know about the circumstance of the author but does not make author vulnerable For instance, under the affective category, the indicator of value was eliminated because it was nearly impossible for two coders to reliably identify value. Further, given the content of the course, nearly every other discussion posting appeared to have a "I think or "I feel . statement (which were the examples originally provided by Swan). Und er the interactive responses, the indicators of approval and personal advice were eliminated. Approval was elimina ted because of its overlap with complimenting/ expression appreciation and personal advice was difficult to identify thus complicating reliabi lity. Finally, under the category of cohesive responses, social sharing and self reflection were eliminated. Social sharing and embracing the group overlapped and self

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75 reflection was difficult to identify. The following coding sheet in Table 3.8 was used for the content analysis. Table 3. 8 Coding Sheet Used for Content Analysis Category & Indicator Definition (Swan) Criteria Examples Affective Responses Paralanguage (PL) Features of text outside formal syntax used to convey emotion (i.e., emoticons, exaggerated punctuation or spelling) Someday; How awful for you ; Mathcad is definitely NOT stand along software; Absolutely!!!!! Emotion (EM) Use of descriptive words that indicate feelings (i.e., love, sad, hate, silly); conventional or unconventional expression of emotions Refers directly to an emotion or an emoticon. Use of capitalization only if obviously intended When I make a spelling mistake, I look and feel stupid; I get chills when I think of . I am scared; This is fun; Sorry this is such a lame email; Hope you are OK; I am pleased that Humor (H) Use of humo r joking, teasing, cajoling, irony, sarcasm, understatement Only code if a clear indication that this is meant to be funny, e.g., extra punctuation or an emoticon God forbid leaving your house to go to the library I'm useless at computers but will this make me a bad nurse??? Ha Ha ; LOL Self Disclosure (SD) Sharing personal information, expressing vulnerability or feelings An expression that may indicate an emotional s tate but does not directly refer to it; Uncertainty, non comprehension I sound like an old lady; I am a closet writer; We had a similar problem. I'm not quite sure how to . .; This is strange; I don't understand how; I don't' know what that means; As usu al I am uncertain; It's all too much . .; Website??? Help!!!!

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76 Table 3.8 (con't.) Interactive Responses Acknowledgement (AK) Referring directly to the contents of others' messages; quoting from others' messages agreement; Reference to others' posts Explicit or implicit recognition that another message has been the motivation for this message Those old machines' sure were something; we won by a landslide landslide' (next response)So what you're saying is . ; I thought that too . For me the question meant . ; Agreement / Disagreement (AG) Expressing agreement or disagreement with others' messages Expressing agreement with each other or contents of messages I'm with you on that; I agree; I think what you are saying is right. I think that would be a good plan; I think your suggestion is good Invitation (I) Asking questions or otherwise inviting response. Students ask questions of each other or moderator Any suggestions?; Would you describe that for me, I am unfamiliar with the term. Does anybody know . .? Expressing Appreciation (EA) Showing appreciation of each other Showing appreciation or approval of each other or contents of messages or complimenting You make a good point; Right on; Good luck as you continue to learn I like your br iefing paper . ; It was really good; Cohesive Responses Greetings & Salutations / Phatics (GS) Greetings, closures. Communication that serves a purely social function Hi Mary; That's it for now, Tom Hi; Hey; Bye for now; Vocatives (V) Addressing or referring to classmates by name You know, Tamara, . ; I totally agree with you Katherine Sally said that .

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77 Table 3.8 (con't.) Cohesive Responses (con't.) Group Reference / inclusivity (GR) Referring to the group as we', us', our'. Addresses the group as a possessed or as a whole Any reference to the group with a possessive pronoun We need to be educated; Our use of the Internet may not be free. We need some ground rules; The task asks us to . Embracing the Group (EG) Revealing life outside the group that is n ot emotional or expressing vulnerability or feelings. Also that isn't related to the course Any expression that lets the group know about the circumstance of the author The kids are asleep now; I'm a physiotherapis t; It's raining again; It s 4am I'm off to bed; Constant Comparison Analysis Constant comparison analysis was the final type of analysis conducted on the threaded discussions Constant comparison analysis a specific type of comparative analysis is a general method used in social science research that traces back to the wo rk of Glaser and Strauss and their development of grounded theory (1967). While researchers like Krathwohl (2 004) and Creswell (1998, 2008) approach constant comparison analysis from only a grounded theory perspective, it is not restricted to a grounded theory or inductive approach (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007). Leech and Onwuegbuzie (2007) explain that const ant c omparison analysis can be conducted inductively, deductively, or abductively. Constant comparison analysis is useful when trying to explore and understand the big picture of a phenomenon (e. g., social presence). In fact, it is one of the most commonly u sed types of qualitative analysis ( Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007) However,

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78 researchers of CMC rarely use it to analyze online course discus sions most likely due to the time involved to conduct this type of analysis. It was used in this study to dig more deeply int o the threaded discussions to understand better the nature of social presence. To conduct constant comparison analysis, I read the entire threaded discussion and p artitioned each meaningful unit into small chunks I then labeled each chunk w ith a code while constantly comparing new codes with previous ones. I then grouped the codes together. Once I grouped the codes together, I identified themes that emerged from the data. Figure 3.1 outlines the steps I took with examples from a previous stu dy I conducted. Step 1. Read the discussion post Hello everyone! I love the educational environments you have created this week. Educators and students should always be the ones who create our schools. It is inspirational to see so many of you create from the schools you have been in or are currently in. Thanks for your creativity! Dr. Deb C. Step 2. Chunk the discussion post into meaningful units [Hello everyone!] [I love the educational environments you have created this week.] [Educators and students should always be the ones who create our schools.] [It is inspirational to see so many of you create from the schools you have been in or are currently in.] [Thanks for your creativity!] [Dr. Deb C] Step 3. Code each meaningful unit while const antly comparing new codes with previous codes [Hello everyone!] GREETING [I love the educational environments you have created this week.] POSITIVE FEEDBACK [Educators and students should always be the ones who create our schools.] ELABORATION / CLARIFICAT ION [It is inspirational to see so many of you create from the schools you have been in or are currently in.] POSITIVE FEEDBACK [Thanks for your creativity!] POSITIVE FEEDBACK [Dr. Deb C] CLOSING REMARK

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79 Step 4. Make a list of the codes and group the codes Codes Grouping of codes Closing remark Directions Positive feedback Greeting Questioning Answering question Elaboration / clarification Writing style Resource Number of students Inclusive language Teacher request Colorado law Faculty seeking feedback Empathy Welcoming Negotiation Accommodation Contact information Course logistics Directions Writing style Number of students Teacher request Colorado law Greetings and Salutations Welcoming Greeting Closing remark Teaching / Facilitation Questioning Answering questions Elaboration / clarification Positive feedback Resource Step 5. Identify themes that emerge from the data (include specific language from the groups, codes, or data when appropriate) While RTEOF have to deal with day to day course logistics, such as directions on how to complete assignments and course expectations, they play more of a role of as a facilitator through the use of questioning, elaborating/clarifying, and giving positive f eedback than as a instructor or giver of knowledge. Figure 3.1 Steps followed to complete constant comparison analysis of online discussions Reliability and Validity Reliability and validity are key co nsiderations for any researcher These two concepts are intricately connected (Cresswell, 2008 ). I ssues of reliability and validity are addressed in the following pages. Reliability Reliability is essentially the consistency of scores researchers obtain from a measure (Goodwin, 2001 ). More specifically, according to Goodwin interrater agreement and reliability is the extent to which scores obtained from two or more raters

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80 (scorers, ju dges, observers) are consistent" (p. 15). The most common method used to calculate interrater reli ability is a percent agreement statistic (Rourke et al., 2001b). I selected t en percent of the discussions to assess i nterrater reliability. Two coders (i.e., me and another researcher) chunked and coded the discussions using content analysis. One challe nge though with interrater reliability is that there is not a consistent agreed upon level of what must be achieved (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001b). Past research on social presence (e.g., Rourke et al., 2001a; Swan, 2003 ) was used as a guide of where in terrater reliability should lie. Following Rourke et al. and Swan, the entire discussion posting was used as the unit of analysis. As a result, 100% agreement was found between the two coders when identifying the chunks to code because the learning management system clearly identified an entire post. After some initial training, the two raters then coded 10% of the discussions to establish reliability of coding. A percent agreement statistic was calculated using Holsti's (1969) coefficient of reliability for each of the threaded discussions: Reading Group G : 80% Pair 6: 78% Project Group 3: 7 7% The overall percent agreement for all of the discussion was 78 % which is an ac ceptable level of agreement given past research (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001; Hughes et al. 2007 ). Validity Validity is a complex concept. Validity has been defined as the "trustworthiness of inferences drawn from data" (Eisenhart & Howe, 1992 p 644 ). However, over the

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81 years, researcher s' understanding of validity and therefore definitions and standards has evolved (Dellinger & Leech, 2007; Goodwin & Leech, 2003). Further, quantitative and qualitative researchers tend to understand and deal wit h validity differently (Cresswell & Plano Clark, 2007; Dellinger & Leech, 2007). Historically, qu antitative researchers separate validity into content, criterion r elated, and construct validity. Q ualitative researchers on the other hand, historically des cribe validity as trustworthiness. A large component of establishing trustworthiness is developing a sound theoretical framework (Garrison, Cleveland Innes, Koole, & Kappelman, 2006, p. 2), as I have tried to do throughout this study. Further, the coding s chemes that were used for this study are based directly in the literature. Chapter Summary Researchers have stud ied social presence in online learning environments for a nu mber of years now. However, to date, research on social presence suffers from a hos t of problems ranging from inconsistent and contradictory findings to strange sampling decisions. Further, researchers have not been able to demonstrate a consistent relationship between student learning and social presence. Part of the problem might be the methodological decisions that researchers have made. Rather than employ a mono method approach like the majority of past research, this study employed a mixed methods approach to studying social presence utilizing both quantitative and qualitative met hods to understand the complex nature of social presence. In addition, in this study I specifically focus ed on how students establish and maintain social presence in a text based environment by focusing on what is said i n the threaded discussions.

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82 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS As described in Chapter 3, I u sed a mixed methods research approach to explore how s ocial presence manifests in an o nline graduate level education course at the University of Colorado Denver More specifically I was interested in finding out how users established their social presence through text alone in asynchronous threaded discussions. In this chapter, I share the results from the word count, content an alysis, and constant comparison analysis I conducted to explore how online learner s establish and maintain their presence in one specific fully online course. Word Count I conducted a word count of the threaded discussions to initially explore the data. I was curious whether certain types of words appeared more frequently than others across all of the threaded discussion s as well as within certain types of threaded discussions as opposed to others For example, did certain words appear more in threaded d iscussions with a pair of students vs. threaded discussions with small groups of students? Using Nvivo 8, I specified the parameters for a word count frequency report. I first looked at the top 50 words used across all of the threaded di scussions (see Appendix B for a complete list of word count frequency's for each word count conducted). While I set forth to investigate the top 50 words used across all threaded discussions, I found that the top 20 words were sufficient to get a basic und erstanding of the data. Thus, I only report on the top 20 words in this section (though I have included the top 50 results in Appendix B ).

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83 Table 4.1 lists the top 20 words used across all of the threaded discuss ions (see Figure 4.1 for a visual representation). The word "I" was used most frequently (4,858 times which represents 4.13% of all the words used) followed next by the word "you" (2,186 times; 1.86% of all the words used). The frequency of these words is not that surprising but the fact that "we" (which is often used as a sign of group reference and therefore an indicator of social presence) was used 1,367 times (or 1.16% of all words used) and ranks fourth overall in all words used i s noteworthy. Some oth er things of interest are the fact that "your" which can often be an example of "acknowledgement" (i.e., another indicator of social presence) was used 810 times or eighth overall. And finally, the word "policy" which is the focus of the course was used 60 0 times (or 10 th overall) whereas the instructor's pseudonym "Bob was used 566 times (or 14 th overall). Table 4. 1 Top 20 Words Used Across All Threaded D iscussions Rank Word Count Percentage (%) 1 I 4858 4.13 2 you 2186 1.86 3 have 1428 1.21 4 we 1367 1.16 5 my 1001 0.85 6 what 948 0.81 7 do 814 0.69 8 your 810 0.69 9 can 730 0.62 10 policy 600 0.51 11 me 595 0.51 12 all 592 0.50 13 about 574 0.49 14 bob 566 0.48 15 so 565 0.48 16 Instructor 564 0.48 17 Think 553 0.47 18 Our 538 0.46 19 Work 494 0.42 20 Would 482 0.41

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84 Figure 4.1. W ord cloud of word count results without the discussion headings. After looking at the frequency of the top 50 words used across all threaded discussions, I then ran a word count report for each of the main threaded discussions: Project Groups (see Table 4.2), Pairs (see Table 4.3), and Reading Groups (see Table 4.4). Wh ile "I" and "you" were still the first and second most used words in each of the main threaded discussions, Figure 4.1 illustrates that "we" and "your" (two possible social presence indicators) show up in the top 20 across all three of these threaded discu ssions and "our" (which is also a possible social presence indicator) shows up across two of the threaded discussions namely, the P roject G roups and the P airs threaded discussions. Each of these words according to the coding sheet (which was discussed in Chapter 3) and the literature in general (see Chapter 2) are possible indicators of group reference and acknowledgement and therefore considered to be indicators of social presence. I mention "possible" because in this case word count does not take into co nsideration the context in which a given word is used; for instance, "we" could be referring to "we Americans" or "we the class."

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85 However, I found it interesting, though not necessarily surprising, that the word "we" and to a smaller degree "our" (i.e., gr oup reference) show up more in specific types of small group discussions where the purpose of the discussion is on collaborating on a class project together as compared to reading groups (which are also small group threaded discussions but one with a diffe rent purpose). This suggests that the purpose of a threaded discussion might influence the degree to which its participants employ certain types of behaviors (i.e., the things referred to later in this chapter as indicators of social presence) to establish and maintain their social presence. Once I had a basic feel for the data, I then conducted a content analysis which I elaborate on in the next section. Project Groups Pairs Reading Groups Rank Word Count % Word Count % Word Count % 1 I 1674 4.08 I 960 4.87 I 1784 3.79 2 you 729 1.78 you 438 2.22 you 802 1.70 3 we 678 1.65 my 339 1.72 have 532 1.13 4 have 497 1.21 have 291 1.48 we 416 0.88 5 what 387 0.94 we 209 1.06 what 358 0.76 6 do 267 0.65 your 189 0.96 do 348 0.74 7 can 261 0.64 me 148 0.75 policy 344 0.73 8 your 258 0.63 what 145 0.74 my 328 0.70 9 our 251 0.61 do 130 0.66 can 297 0.63 10 all 241 0.59 work 123 0.62 reading 293 0.62 11 think 221 0.54 about 119 0.60 your 283 0.60 12 my 215 0.52 goals 116 0.59 one 255 0.54 13 so 214 0.52 can 110 0.56 about 242 0.51 14 data 202 0.49 our 102 0.52 all 231 0.49 15 policy 193 0.47 how 100 0.51 think 227 0.48 16 would 184 0.45 school 97 0.49 me 226 0.48 17 some 181 0.44 teachers 85 0.43 so 225 0.48 18 need 176 0.43 goal 84 0.43 instructor 222 0.47 19 me 173 0.42 some 82 0.42 bob 221 0.47 20 about 171 0.42 would 82 0.42 summary 196 0.42 Figure 4. 2 Frequency of possible social presence indicators across the three major and most frequented threaded discussions.

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86 Table 4.2 Top 20 Words a cross Project Groups Rank Word Count Percentage (%) 1 I 1674 4.08 2 you 729 1.78 3 we 678 1.65 4 have 497 1.21 5 what 387 0.94 6 do 267 0.65 7 can 261 0.64 8 your 258 0.63 9 our 251 0.61 10 all 241 0.59 11 think 221 0.54 12 my 215 0.52 13 so 214 0.52 14 data 202 0.49 15 policy 193 0.47 16 would 184 0.45 17 some 181 0.44 18 need 176 0.43 19 me 173 0.42 20 about 171 0.42 Table 4.3 Top 20 Words a cross Pairs Rank Word Count Percentage (%) 1 I 960 4.87 2 you 438 2.22 3 my 339 1.72 4 have 291 1.48 5 we 209 1.06 6 your 189 0.96 7 me 148 0.75 8 what 145 0.74 9 do 130 0.66 10 work 123 0.62 11 about 119 0.60 12 goals 116 0.59 13 can 110 0.56 14 our 102 0.52 15 how 100 0.51 16 sc hool 97 0.49 17 teachers 85 0.43 18 goal 84 0.43 19 some 82 0.42 20 would 82 0.42

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87 Table 4.4 Top 20 Words a cross Reading Groups Rank Word Count Percentage (%) 1 I 1784 3.79 2 you 802 1.70 3 have 532 1.13 4 we 416 0.88 5 what 358 0.76 6 do 348 0.74 7 policy 344 0.73 8 my 328 0.70 9 can 297 0.63 10 reading 293 0.62 11 your 283 0.60 12 one 255 0.54 13 about 242 0.51 14 all 231 0.49 15 think 227 0.48 16 me 226 0.48 17 so 225 0.48 18 instructor 222 0.47 19 bob 221 0.47 20 summary 196 0.42 Content Analysis After conducting word count, I used an amended version (see Chapter 3) of the social presence indicators developed by Rourke et al. (2001a) to conduct content analysis on all of the thr eaded discussions in the course in order to identify what types of social presence indicators were present in each threaded discussion. As an exploratory study, I wa s interested in exploring the data to see how the students and the instructor in this given sample established and maintained their social presence. More specifically, though, I was curious about the overall occurrence of all of the social presence indicat ors (taken as a whole) across all of the threaded discussions, as well as the degree to which each category (i.e., groups of specific types of social presence indicators) and specifi cally each

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88 individual indicator were used in this sample. But at the same time, based on the CoI framework coupled with the word count results, I was also interested in the degree to which all of the social presence indicators, categories of social presence indicators, and specifically each individual social presence indicator occurred in specific types of threaded discussion. Finally, and based in part on the results of my own research (Lowenthal & Dunlap, 2011), I was curious how individual students might employ certain types of social presence behaviors differently than others. In summary in order to explore how social presence manifests in threaded discussions (i.e., the research question guiding this study) I was interested in the occurrence and the frequency of the social presence indicators across all of the threaded discussions, as well as their occurrence and frequency within specific threaded discussions, and finally their relationship to each student (i.e., how often e ach student used specific social presence indicators). Figure 4.2 visually illustrates the stages of disaggregation I went through and report on in the following sections. Figure 4. 3 Stages of disaggregation of content analysis used to explore use of so cial presence indicators in a fully online asynchronous online course.

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89 Stage One: Social Presence Categories and Indicators a cross All Threaded D iscussions Past research on social presence, or at least research focused on identifying indicators of social presence in online discussions, has focused primarily on reporting the results in terms of the three categories or types of social presence indicators. Thus, I was first interested in identifying which category of social presence indicators (i.e., Affecti ve, Interactive, and Cohesive) was identified the most and which was identified the least across all of the threaded discussions. In other words, as a class, were "Affective," "Cohesive," or "Interactive" indicators used the most? Content analysis reveale d that of the three different categories (or types) of social presence, "Interactive" indicators were present the most with 2,581 instances, "Cohesive" indicators were present the second most with 2,454 instances, and "Affective" indicators were present th e least with 1,373 instances (see Figure 4. 4 and Table 4.5). The differences between "Interactive" indicators and "Cohesive" indicators across all of the threaded discussions are minor. But there is an observable difference between these two categories and the "Affective" category of social presence indicators (see Figure 4. 4 ). In other words, in this sample, students used "Affective" indicators the least. This is interesting in part because while Hughes et al. (2007) found a similar result in their sample, Swan (2003) found that "Affective" indicato rs were actually used the most in her sample.

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90 Figure 4. 4 A visual depiction of the frequency of each of the three social presence categories. After examining the category level, I drilled down further to identify the frequency at wh ich participants in this sample used each of the individual social presence indicators across all of the threaded discussions. The top three indicators used across all of the threaded discussions were "acknowledgement" (i.e., recognizing and openly acknowledging a previous p ost by a person) which was used the most at 1,137 instances, followed next by "invitation" (e.g., asking a question) which was used 747 times, and then by "vocatives" (i.e., addressing someone directly by the first name) which was used 748 times (see Table 4.5 and Figure 4. 5 ). It is difficult to compare these results to other researchers because as mentioned earlier, the majority of those who do analyze online discussions focusing on social presence indicators do not report their results at the indicator le vel. Swan (2003) however, is one exception. But Swan only reports her findings at the indicator level through a series of bar graphs that lack exact numerical values (but still enable a reader to compare the frequency of each indicator). Acknowledgement w as the only top three

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91 indicator shared with my sample and Swan's sample; paralanguage which was used infrequently in this sample was actually the most frequently occurring social presence indicator in Swan's study. Table 4.5 Social Presence Frequency a cros s All Forums Category & Indicator Frequency Total Affective Responses 1373 Paralanguage (PL) 270 Emotion (EM) 526 Humor (H) 53 Self Disclosure (SD) 524 Total Interactive Responses 2581 Acknowledgement (AK) 1137 Agreement / Disagreement (AG) 192 Invitation (I) 747 Expressing Appreciation (EA) 505 Total Cohesive Responses 2454 Greetings & Salutations / Phatics (GS) 714 Vocatives (V) 748 Group Reference / inclusivity (GR) 638 Embracing the Group (EG) 354 Total 6408 The least frequently used indicators of social presence were "humor" which was used the least at 53 instances (which was also the least used indicator in Swan's sample), followed next by "Agreement/Disagreement" which was used 192 times, and then by "paralang uage" which was used 270 times (see Table 4.6 for a complete ranking of each of the social presence indicators across all of the threaded discussions).

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92 Figure 4. 5 Frequency of social presence indicators across all threaded discussions Table 4.6 Social Presence Indicators Ranking from Highest to Lowest Frequency Social Presence Indicators Frequency Acknowledgement 1173 Vocatives 748 Invitation 747 Greetings & Salutations / Phatics 714 Group Reference / Inclusivity 638 Emotion 526 Self Disclosure 524 Expressing Appreciation 505 Embracing the Group 354 Paralanguage 270 Agreement / Disagreement 192 Humor 53 While it is useful to compare how the individual social presence indicators manifest across all three categories of social presence, it is also helpful to drill down to see how they compare to other indicators within their same category. The reason for this is because it is possible that within a given category that certain indicators of social pres ence are used more frequently than others. For instance, in the "Affective" category HIJ* KHL* KM* KHN* OOMI* OPH* INI* KJK* ION* INQ* LMQ* MKN* J* HJJ* NJJ* LJJ* QJJ* OJJJ* OHJJ* Affective Interactive Cohesion

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93 "emotion" and "self disclosure" appeared the most frequently and almost in th e same frequency (see Figure 4. 6 ). In the "Interactive" category however, signs of "acknowledg ement" were by far the most frequently used social pr esence indicator (see Figure 4. 6 ). Finally, in the "Cohesion" category, "greetings / salutations / phatics," vocatives," and then "group reference" all appeared in about the same frequency but "embracin g the group" was used the least (see Figure 4. 6 ). Figure 4. 6 Social presence indicators separated by category

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94 Stage Two: Social Presence Categories and Indicators By Discussion Forum As helpful as it is to look at the frequency of social presence indic ators across all of the threaded discussions and treating all of the threaded discussions essentially as one case, it is perhaps more insightful and helpful to drill down and look at the occurrence of social presence indicators across and within types of t hreaded discussions. At this stage, I first looked at the occurrence of social presence indicators across specific types of threaded discussions. For the ease of reporting, I separated full class threaded discussions (i.e., discussions that are "open" to the entire class) f rom small group threaded discussions (i.e., discussions that are closed to a small select group of students assigned with a specific task like discussing the reading or collaborating on a course project). See Table 4.7 for the list of "open" vs. "closed" threaded discussions. But because each threaded discussion differs in total number of posts and words, I needed a way to calculate the social presence density of each discussion. Following the lead of Rourke et al. (2001a), I calculate d the social presence density for each indicator in each threaded discussion. But because the unit of analysis for this study was the entire post, I calculated the social presence density by taking the average social presence indicator per post (as opposed to per word like Rourke et al. 2001a ) to facilitate comparison across open and closed threaded discussions.

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95 Table 4.7 Open vs. Closed Threaded Discussions Open to Entire Class Small Group (limited to 2 5) Virtual Office -Virtual Office General Discussions -General Syllabus -General Groups -General Independent Work -General Individual Work Adult Learning Discussions -Adult Learning Discussion Forum: Your Learning -Adult Learning Discussion Forum: Questionnaire #1 Plus Delta Discussions -Plus Delta Week 2 -Plus Delta Week 3 -Plus Delta Week 4 -Plus Delta Week 5 -Plus Delta Week 6 Reading Log Discussions -Reading Log1 -Reading Log 3 Reading Groups -Reading Group A -Reading Group B -Reading Group C -Reading Group D -Reading Group E -Reading Group F -Reading Group G Pairs -Pair 1 -Pair 2 -Pair 3 -Pair 4 -Pair 5 -Pair 6 -Pair 7 -Pair 8 -Pair 9 -Pair 10 Project Groups -Project Group 1 -Project Group 2 -Project Group 3 -Project Group 4 -Project Group 5 I found when comparing the average social presence indicators per post between open threaded discussions and closed threaded discussions that a higher density of social presence occurred in closed threaded discussions than in open threaded discussions (see Table 4.8). For instance, the average per post "Affective" indicator is 0.78 in closed discussions (meaning there is an average .78 affective indicators per post) compared to 0.56 for open discussions; the average "Cohesive" indicators is 1.37 in closed d iscussions

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96 as compared to 1.17 in open discussions; and the average "Interactive" indicators is 1.45 in closed discussions vs. 1.09 in open discussions. Table 4.8 Average Social Presence Indicators Per Post a cross Open and Closed Threaded Discussions Open Discussions Closed Discussions Total Average Total Average Affective 101 0.56 1272 0.78 Cohesive 211 1.17 2243 1.37 Interactive 197 1.09 2382 1.45 Total 509 2.81 5897 3.59 I then decided to look deeper within the closed discussions to explore any observable differences between the different types of closed discussions used because while all three were "closed" discussions, each one had a distinct purpose which could have influenced how students posted in each threa ded discussion. When comparing all three of the different types of "closed" discussio ns (see Table 4.9 and Figure 4. 7 ), "Pairs" had the highest total social presence average per post with 4.20 social presence indicators per post. "Project Groups" was next with an average of 3.76 social presence indicators per post. And then "Reading" groups had the lowest average of soc ial presence indicators per post. These differences could likely be due to a combination of the group size and the purpose of each of these threaded discussions. For instance, the "Pairs" and the "Project Groups" had very specific tasks that required inte raction, cohesion, and collaboration whereas the "Reading Groups" (while also a small group) had less prescriptive tasks (see Table 3.1 in Chapter 3).

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97 Table 4.9 Average Social Presence Indicators a cross Closed Threaded Discussions Reading Groups Pairs Project Groups Total Average Total Average Total Average Affective 549 0.77 253 0.95 470 0.71 Cohesive 776 1.09 467 1.76 1000 1.50 Interactive 956 1.35 394 1.49 1032 1.55 Total 2281 3.21 1114 4.20 2502 3.76 Figure 4. 7 Visual depiction of the average social presence indicators grouped by category in closed threaded discussions. But when I began to compare each category and later each indicator, the results began to change. For instance, the "Pairs" threaded discussions have th e highest average of all of the social presence indicators per post across all the categories and indicators.

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98 But when I disaggregated these results, I found that the "Pairs" threaded discussions did not have the highest social presence density across all three categories of social presence. For the interactive category of indicators, the "Pairs" group actually had a lower per post average than the "Project Groups." At the same time, while the "Reading Groups" had the lowest total social presence average pe r post overall, these threaded discussions actually had a higher average of affective indicators than "Project Groups" (see Table 4.10). This could suggest that certain t ypes of tasks in certain group sizes could elicit more social presence behaviors per p articipant than others. At the same time, the differences are minor and more research would likely need to be conducted to support this theory. Table 4.10 Ranking of Average Social Presence Indicators Across Closed Threaded Discussions Social Presence Category & Closed Threaded Discussion Average Per Post Affective Indicators Pairs 0.95 Reading Groups 0.77 Project Groups 0.71 Cohesive Indicators Pairs 1.76 Project Groups 1.50 Reading Groups 1.09 Interactive Indicators Project Groups 1.55 Pairs 1.49 Reading Groups 1.35 Each threaded discussion specifically the closed threaded discussions consists of different students and therefore even though the tasks might be the same, it is possible that individual students and their natural or learned communication skills influence the

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99 frequency and therefore overall social presence density in a given threaded discussion (which is in part why I looked at each student's social presence behaviors during Stage 3 of the content analysis ). Therefore, I dug deeper to look at the social pr esence density across all closed thre aded discussions (see Table 4.11 ). One of the Pair s threaded discussions specifically Pair 9 had the highest overall average of social presence indicators per post per discussion as well as the highest per post average of each of the three categories of social presence indicators. Reading Group E and Reading Group G ended up with the lowest social presence per post average per individual threaded discussions. These results follow the general trend identified earlier (se e Figure 4. 6 ) with the Pairs threaded discussions having the overall highest density of social presence per post and the Reading Groups threaded discussions having the lowest overall density of social presence per post. This could suggest that the overall size and purpose of a specific discussion highly influences the amount of social presence indicators used by students in any given discussion s: For instance, the P airs discussions involved two students taking part in personal discussions versus the R eading G roups which involved small groups of 4 5 students talking about the weekly readings in the course. As one might imagine, two students discussing personal matters might engender more affective, cohesive, and interactive indicators than a larger group disc ussing course readings.

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100 Table 4.11 Average Social Presence Indicator per Threaded Discussion Discussion Forum Total Posts Affective / Avg Per Post Cohesive / Avg Per Post Interactive / Avg Per Post Social Presence / Avg Per Post Open Discussions Virtual Office 44 16 (0.36) 59 (1.34) 44 (1.00) 119 (2.7) General: Syllabus 48 12 (0.25) 44 (0.92) 34 (0.71) 90 (1.88) General: Groups 14 8 (0.57) 12 (0.86) 16 (1.14) 36 (2.57) General: Independent Work 3 3 (1.00) 5 (1.67) 3 (1.00) 11 (3.67) General : Individual Work 2 0 (0.00) 3 (1.50) 2 (1.00) 5 (2.5) Adult Learning Discussion Forum Your Learning 12 4 (0.33) 13 (1.08) 12 (1.00) 29 (2.42) Adult Learning Discussion Forum Questionnaire #1 3 4 (1.33) 2 (0.67) 5 (1.67) 11 (3.67) Plus Delta Week2 13 15 (1.15) 24 (1.85) 15 (1.15) 54 (4.15) Plus Delta Week 3 22 19 (0.86) 30 (1.36) 36 (1.64) 85 (3.86) Plus Delta Week 4 2 3 (1.50) 0 (0.00) 3 (1.50) 6 (3.00) Plus Delta Week 5 2 3 (1.50) 5 (2.50) 2 (1.00) 10 (5.00) Plus Delta Week 6 3 7 (2.33) 4 (1.33) 4 (1.33) 15 (5.00) Reading Log 1 12 7 (0.58) 10 (0.83) 20 (1.67) 37 (3.08) Reading Log 3 1 0 (0.00) 0 (0.00) 1 (1.00) 1 (1.00) Closed Discussions Reading Group A 125 110 (0.88) 128 (1.02) 192 (1.54) 430 (3.44) Reading Group B 132 88 (0.67) 124 (0.94) 203 (1.54) 415 (3.14) Reading Group C 95 104 (1.09) 129 (1.36) 95 (1.00) 328 (3.45) Reading Group D 109 120 (1.10) 153 (1.40) 186 (1.71) 459 (4.21) Reading Group E 40 23 (0.58) 29 (0.73) 41 (1.03) 93 (2.33) Reading Group F 106 59 (0.56) 84 (0.79) 126 (1.19) 269 (2.54) Reading Group G 103 45 (0.44) 129 (1.25) 113 (1.10) 287 (2.79) Pair 1 32 18 (0.56) 46 (1.44) 51 (1.59) 115 (3.59) Pair 2 40 41 (1.03) 71 (1.78) 59 (1.48) 171 (4.28) Pair 3 45 41 (0.91) 84 (1.87) 78 (1.73) 203 (4.51) Pair 4+ 6 5 (0.83) 5 (0.83) 5 (0.83) 15 (2.50) Pair 5 30 38 (1.27) 65 (2.17) 38 (1.27) 141 (4.70) Pair 6 28 14 (0.50) 38 (1.36) 30 (1.07) 82 (2.93) Pair 7 26 23 (0.88) 41 (1.58) 40 (1.54) 104 (4.00) Pair 8 21 33 (1.57) 48 (2.29) 33 (1.57) 114 (5.43) Pair 9 15 25 (1.67) 38 (2.53) 30 (2.00) 93 (6.20) Pair 10 22 15 (0.68) 31 (1.41) 30 (1.36) 76 (3.45)

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101 Table 4.11 (con't.) Closed Discussions (con't.) Project Group 1 109 72 (0.66) 160 (1.47) 167 (1.53) 399 (3.66) Project Group 2 180 96 (0.53) 276 (1.53) 292 (1.62) 664 (3.69) Project Group 3 138 111 (0.80) 168 (1.22) 189 (1.37) 468 (3.39) Project Group 4 113 79 (0.70) 136 (1.20) 141 (1.25) 356 (3.15) Project Group 5 126 112 (0.89) 260 (2.06) 243 (1.93) 615 (4.88) Stage Three: Social Presence Categories and Indicators By Student s While conducting the content analysis, I began to get a sense that certain students used certain social presence indicators (e.g., paralanguage and vocatives) more than others. Therefore, I decided to investigate the frequency at which each student used social presence indicators. I reasoned that it could be that even though a certain threaded discussion (w hich consisted of a group of students) might have a high social presence density, it could be the result of one group member who was extremely active and proficient with employing affective, interactive, and cohesive means of communication in threaded discussions. Henceforth, I first looked at each participant's use of all three of these categories of social presence as a whole; however, I excluded five students who failed to post more than ten overall posts throughout the semester. Of those who posted more than ten times, Cathy had the highest average with 5.43 instances of social presence per post, followed next by Diana with 4.87 per post, and Mary with 4.64 per post. This becomes more striking when these results are compared to participants with the lowest use of social presence indicators per post. The three participants with the lowest number of social presence indicators per post were Instructor Bob who had the lowest average at 2.24 instances per post, followed by Sam with 2.42 per post, and then Monica at 2.89 per post.

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102 But when I dug a little deeper I found that a high or low social presence rating (i.e., the average social presence indicator s used per post) does not necessarily mean that the participant in question scores the same on all three categories of indicators or even on a given set of indicators within a category. In other words, one could feel competent and comfortable with interactive types of communication but not with affective or cohesive. For instance, while Cathy had a high overa ll social presence average per post ( when taking into consideration all three categories of social presence ) she had one of the three lowest interactive averages per post. In other words, while her use of affective and cohesive indicators was high compare d to her peers her use of interactive indicators was low compared to her peers Similarly, while Instructor Bob had an overall low total social presence score, he in fact had the highest interactive score (see Table 4.1 2 ) thus suggesting that he may be mo re proficient at interactive types of communication than cohesive or affective. Table 4.12 Student's Use of Social Presence Categories Total Posts Social Presence Total Posts (Avg. Per Post) Affective Total Posts (Avg. Per Post) Cohesive Total Posts (Avg. Per Posts) Interactive Total Posts (Avg. Per Posts) Adam 76 254 (3.34) 56 (0.22) 109 (0.43) 89 (0.35) Cathy 77 418 (5.43) 122 (0.29) 175 (0.42) 121 (0.29) Christine 107 362 (3.38) 86 (0.24) 115 (0.32) 161 (0.44) Daphne 73 253 (3.47) 42 (0.17) 112 (0.44) 99 (0.39) Dawn 121 360 (2.98) 69 (0.19) 123 (0.34) 168 (0.47) Denise 103 393 (3.82) 61 (0.16) 178 (0.45) 154 (0.39) Diana 94 458 (4.87) 156 (0.34) 151 (0.33) 151 (0.33) Erica 66 221 (3.35) 53 (0.24) 101 (0.46) 67 (0.30) Gabriela 55 173 (3.15) 34 (0.20) 66 (0.38) 73 (0.42) Instructor Bob 328 736 (2.24) 115 (0.16) 204 (0.28) 417 (0.57)

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103 Table 4.12 (con't.) Kate 99 354 (3.58) 52 (0.15) 157 (0.44) 145 (0.41) Kyleigh 85 274 (3.22) 75 (0.27) 99 (0.36) 100 (0.36) Laura 39 172 (4.41) 44 (0.26) 73 (0.42) 55 (0.32) Mary 117 543 (4.64) 91 (0.17) 231 (0.43) 221 (0.41) Micky 93 423 (4.55) 96 (0.23) 174 (0.41) 153 (0.36) Monica 53 153 (2.89) 32 (0.21) 61 (0.40) 60 (0.39) Richard 31 130 (4.19) 23 (0.18) 61 (0.47) 46 (0.35) Sam 78 189 (2.42) 50 (0.26) 55 (0.29) 84 (0.44) Sara 50 229 (4.58) 54 (0.24) 88 (0.38) 87 (0.38) Vicky 64 234 (3.66) 47 (0.20) 82 (0.35) 105 (0.45) But even treating each social presence indicator within a given category equally could perhaps be hiding certain trends. For instance, it could be that certain people are strong with certain indicators in a given category but not others (for instance, some one might have a high Affective category but simply because he or she is really proficient at disclosing personal information and sharing emotion, but not at using paralanguage and humor). So I decided to take a look at the students with the highest over all social presence average per post (see Figure 4. 8 and Figure 4. 9 ). While Cathy had the highest social presence per post average at 5.43 instances per post Cathy's (like Mary's) strength appears to be "greetings and salutations." Diana on the other hand uses "paralanguage" more frequently than "greetings and salutations." Diana though was one of the students in the Pairs 9 threaded discussion which had the highest per post average of social presence indicators; it is important to note that she was paired with Sara who was fourth on the overall list with the highest average of social presence indicators.

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104 These results likely suggest two things. First, that just because someone may be proficient at employing a certain type or category of social presence be haviors (i.e., affective, interactive, and / or cohesive) does not mean that this same person is proficient at or comfortable with each indicator related to the category of social presence communication In other words, while someone might use a lot of aff ective types of communication, he or she might never use paralanguage and vocatives, opting instead for the use of greetings and salutations, acknowledgement of others, and the use of emotion. Second, these findings might point to the fact that people espe cially in small group s might begin to mirror the communication behaviors of their peers. For example if a peer (in a small group) has strong social presence behaviors and heavily uses paralanguage then other students in the group might begin to use parala ngu age more frequently than before simply from mimicking their peer. Cathy Diana Mary Greetings & salutations 0.84 Paralanguage 0.64 Greetings & salutations 0.85 Emotion 0.6 Acknowledgement 0.63 Acknowledgement 0.79 Acknowledgement 0.6 Group Reference 0.62 Invitation 0.5 Vocatives 0.56 Invitation 0.59 Group Reference 0.5 Paralanguage 0.52 Emotion 0.5 Vocatives 0.44 Group Reference 0.51 Self Disclosure 0.49 Expressing Appreciation 0.44 Invitation 0.45 Greetings & salutations 0.43 Emotion 0.37 Expressing Appreciation 0.42 Vocatives 0.31 S elf Disclosure 0.31 Embracing the Group 0.36 Expressing Appreciation 0.31 Embracing the Group 0.18 Self Disclosure 0.35 Embracing the Group 0.26 Agreement 0.17 Humor 0.12 Agreement 0.09 Paralanguage 0.1 Agreement 0.1 Humor 0.03 Humor 0 Figure 4. 8 Ranking of social presence indicators used by the three students with the highest overall social presence per post average.

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105 Mary's Individual Use of Social Presence Indicators Diana 's Individual Use of Social Presence Indicators Cathy 's Individual Use of Social Presence Indicators JRO* JRMI* J* JRMO* JRQK* JRNN* JRK* JROQ* JRIP* JRK* JROI* JRNN* :7$727)>07>%* !,(S()* /0,($* 1%2+*4'&52(&0$%* T$%%S)>&*U*&720-7S()&* 6(57S8%&* T$(0#*D%+%$%)5%* !,V$75')>*-;%*T$(0#* F5G)(W2%@>%,%)-* 9)8'-7S()* JRLN* JRK* JRJM* JRNP* JRNM* JRMO* JRLH* JRHL* JRLM* JRKP* JRJP* JRMO* :7$727)>07>%* !,(S()* /0,($* 1%2+*4'&52(&0$%* T$%%S)>&*U*&720-7S()&* 6(57S8%&* T$(0#*D%+%$%)5%* !,V$75')>*-;%*T$(0#* F5G)(W2%@>%,%)-* 9)8'-7S()*

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106 Figure 4. 9 Disaggregation of three students with highest social presence per post average. Constant Comparison Analysis While social science has a long tradition of using content analysis alone to analyze the content of online discussions, I decided at the beginning of this study to use multiple types of analysis in an effort to better explore how social presence manifests in threaded discussions in a completely online course. I turned to constant comparison analysis in hopes that it would reveal things that were missed by content analysis At the beginning of this study, I decided to analy ze the threaded discussion with th e highest average social presence density per discussion post and the threaded discussion with the lowest in hopes of identifying different ways that social presence manifests in threaded discussions. After conducting content analysis, I selected the Pair 9 threaded discussion as having the highest social presence density at 6.20 per post and the Reading Group E as having the lowest social presence density at 2.33 per post. I then used const ant comparison analysis to code these two threa ded discussions in a n effort to JRKH* JRL* JROH* JRMK* JRQN* JRKL* JRKO* JRML* JRL* JRNK* JRO* JRNH* :7$727)>07>%* !,(S()* /0,($* 1%2+*4'&52(&0$%* T$%%S)>&*U*&720-7S()&* 6(57S8%&* T$(0#*D%+%$%)5%* !,V$75')>*-;%*T$(0#* F5G)(W2%@>%,%)-* 9)8'-7S()*

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107 see if themes might emerge that tell a similar or different story than th e content analysis results Due to the different nature of each threaded discussion, I conducted constant comparison analysis on each discussion separately. I first analyzed Reading Group E (which had the lowest social presence density) As touched on in Chapter 3, the Reading Group discussions consisted of small groups of 4 5 students that were tasked with discussing the course readings and jointly writing nine diffe rent reading logs about the course readings. The readings logs were supposed to not only summarize the readings but also bring up any questions the group members had so that the in structor could then answer them in the Reading Gro up threaded discussions. S tudents had two incentives to take part in the Readin g Group threaded discussions: F irst, students were graded on each of the nine reading logs which consisted of 15.25% of the course grade; secon d, students were graded for their online interactivity and quality of work, which consisted of 16.95% of the course grade. As mentioned in Chapter 3, the first step of conducting constant comparison analysis involved reading the entire threaded discussion. After reading all of the posts in the threaded discussion, I then chunked the text into meaningful units. I then coded each meaningful unit while constantly comparing new codes with previous codes. During the coding process, I focused on the way people were communicating while still trying not to limit myself or be confined in any way to the social presence indicators used for content analysis. After coding all of the meaningful units, I then listed the codes and grouped similar codes.

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108 The analysis resulted in 89 unique codes (see Appendix C ). Those co des were gathered into eight separate groups (see Table 4.1 3 ). Table 4.1 3 Groups of Codes Resulting from the Constant Comparison Analysis Reading Group E Grouping of Codes Course logistics & facilitation Emotion Greetings and Salutations Sharing Life Details Gracious/ Gratitude Self Disclosing Personal Matters Playing Nice with Others Policy Related Class Discussions In the fifth and final step, I identified themes from the data while including specific language from the groups, codes, or data when appropriate. The following two themes emerged from the data from Reading Group E. ( I have italicized any text that came straight from the threaded discussions. ) Policy is complex and multifaceted ; it is something that many stu dents and teachers have no idea about ; while the readings varied in complexity and requ ired a little more time than texts in past classes with the help of the instructor the students came to find the study of policy interesting and relevant. Students beg an the threaded discussion ( which spanned two months ) with chit chatting and telling personal stories but quickly changed their focus to the task at hand of discussing public policy in general and the readings in particular;

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109 overtime the focus of the discu ssion was solely on the reading and public policy by this point the discussion largely consisted of students posting questions and th e instructor answering the questions. After analyzing the Reading Group E threaded discussion I analyzed the Pair 9 threa ded discussion (which had the highest social presence density) following the same steps as above. The Pair 9 threaded discussion had a different purpose than the reading group. According to the course syllabus, the Pairs group is a place where group membe rs work on a personal professional development activity that requires each student to take a bit of risk and develop some trust with each other while discussing individual personal professional goals that are deeply important to one another. Similar to th e Reading Group threaded discussions, students had two incentives to take part in the Pair's threaded discussions: F irst, students were graded on the 3 5 page paper that resulted from their work in their pairs group they were assigned to which consisted of 12.7% of the course grade ; second, students were graded for their online interactivity and quality of work, which consisted of 16.95% of the course grade. Likely due in part to the different purpose the Pairs threaded discussions had a higher social pr esence density than other threaded discussions but specifically th e Pairs 9 group had the highest among all of the Pairs and all of the threaded discussions in general. Analysis of the Pairs 9 group res ulted in 63 codes (see Appendix C ), which I then grou ped into nine groups (see Table 4.1 4 ).

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110 Table 4.1 4 Groups of Codes Resulting from the Constant Comparison Analysis Reading Pair 9 Grouping of Codes Course logistics & facilitation Collaboration Emotion Sharing Life Details Playing Nice with Others Policy Related Class Discussions Greetings and Salutations Self Disclosing Personal Matters Gracious/ Gratitude Three themes emerged from this data as well. Like before, I have italicized any text that came straight from the threaded discussions. Students who have a past relationship and sp end time with each other either professionally (e.g., we are fortunate enough to work together ) or personally outside of class can have an easier time collaborating with each other because of their past relations hip, shared experiences, and geographic closeness which others might not have. These benefits can help them NOT to be alone give them opportunities to chat a lot provide a strong and safe foundation to openly share how they are struggling personally and professionally, and to regularly meet face to face. Instructors can only react to what the y see in a threaded discussion. It is difficult to assess and to support students when they collaborate offlin e. When asked to take a risk, trust a peer, and self disclose personal details, it helps when two people already know each other have some trust already built have shared experiences, and finally have the ability to talk and meet offline.

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111 While the res ults of the constant comparison analysis did not necessarily contradict any of the findings from the word count or content analysis, they did begin to fill in some details about what students were talking about in each threaded discussion and how the type and purpose of a threaded discussion could influence how people communicate with one another. Chapter Summary I utilized word count, content analysis, and constant comparison analysis to explore how social pr esence manifests i n a fully online discussion. Results illustrate that participants use of social presence behaviors (e.g., indicators of social presence) vary across the course The results also reveal that looking at the total social presence indicators or even simply the frequency at wh ich each category of social presence is used (e.g., affective, cohesive, and interactive) might be misleading and miss important details about how and when people use certain social presence behaviors. These results will be discussed at greater length in Chapter 5.

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112 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION I set out to explore how social presence manifests in a fully online asynchronous course. In Chapter 1, I laid out an argument for why additional research needs to be conducted on soc ial presence. Then in Chapter 2, I reviewed the literature on social presenc e and the c ommunity of inquiry (CoI) After r eviewi ng the literature, I then explained in Chapter 3 the methods that were used for this study. Finally in Chapter 4, I reported on the results of the stu dy Now in Chapter 5, I will discuss th e significance of these results, the limitations of this study, and the practical implications for the results specifically for course designers and faculty. Key Findings A deep and meaningful educational experience involves teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence (Garrison et al., 2000) The CoI framework posits that social presence is developed as the result of teaching presence. More specifically, educators develop social presence through instruc tional design and organization, facilitating discourse, and direct instruction (the three components of teaching presence) (Anderson, Rourke, Garrison, & Archer, 2001). This does not mean that social presence can not naturally occur. Walther (1992) argued almost 20 years ago that people are social creatures and that given enough time people will find ways to use any communication medium for social purposes. Online educators however typically do not want to wait and hope that their student's natural social tendencies kick i n I nstead they often strive to find ways to help encourage the development of social presence in online courses (which is what the CoI refers to as teaching presence).

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113 T he CoI framework ( as well as the CoI literature as whole) th ough, does not provide much guidance on how to design courses, facilitate discourse, and provide direct instruction to facilitate the development of social presence ( Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007). For instance, how many threaded discussions should be in a cour se? Should the threaded discussions be full class discussions or small groups? Should they have specific instructional tasks? Educators can make some inferences from the indicators of teaching pr esence developed by Anderso n et al. (2001) (see Table 5.1), b ut even these indicators lack sufficient detail. Table 5.1 Teaching Presence Categories and Indicators Teaching Presence Categories and Indicators Instructional Design and Organization Setting Curriculum Designing Methods Establishing Time Parameters Utilizing Medium Effectively Establishing Netiquette Facilitating discourse Identifying a reas of agreement/ disagreement Seeking to reach consensus/ understanding Encouraging, acknowledging, or reinforcing student contributions Setting climate for learning Drawing in participants, prompting discussion Assess the efficacy of the process Direct Instruction Present content/ questions Focus the discussion on specific issues Summarize the discussion Confirm understanding through assessment and explanatory feedback Diagnose misconceptions Inject knowledge from diverse sources e.g., textbook, articles, internet, personal experiences (includes pointers to resources) Responding to technical concerns

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114 Some of the results presented in Chapter 4 might begin filling this void. That is, the results provide a couple of possible guidelines for how educators can design and develop online courses to increase social presence. However, as an exploratory study using a small sample the findings from this study should not be generalized to all populations. In fact, any and all findings should be confirmed with additional research. With that in mind, I will address some key findings in the following paragraphs. Group Size One of the first things that stood out i nitia lly with the word count results and then with the content analysis results was that the social presence density that is the average social presence indicator per discussion post differed across types of threaded discussions specifically open vs. clo sed discussions In other words, a higher social presence density existed for small group discussions than for large group discussions. This suggests that students projected themselves as "real" and "there" in the threaded discussions through specific soci al presence behaviors (e.g., self disclosing information, addressing people by first name, using emoticons) more frequently in small discussions than in large discussions. While very little research has been conducted on group size and social presence, Tu and McIsaac (2002) claimed that "appropriate communication group size" can influence social interaction and thus social presence. They concluded based on the qualitative data in their study that "the size of the discussion group exerted a major impact o n students' interaction, particularly in real time discussions" (p. 145). And while they recommend that two to three participants are an ideal group size for real time

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115 discussions, they unfortunately do not offer any suggestions for an ideal group size for asynchronous discussions. Rourke and Anderson (2002a) conducted a study on using peer teams to lead discussions. They f oun d that students preferred small group peer l ed threaded discussions more than full class ins tructor led discussions. T hey concluded that this preference was possibly due to the fact the small group discussions consisted of four students and w ere led by their peers rather than the instructor. But the students' preference for small group discussions could have been due to a combination o f the group size the instructional task, and the instructor's reduced role rather than simply the fact that the discussions were peer led This finding about large and small group discussions however, does not suggest that social presence cannot devel op in large group discussions. In fact, Nagel and Kotze (2009) found high levels of social presence in a "super sized" course of 100+ students. This findi ng about group size might simply confirm what Kreijns, Kirschner, and Jochems (2003) argued about group size namely, that anonymity and non participation increase s as groups get larger (p. 340). In other words, as the group siz e (or class size ) increases it is easier for students to hide and sit back and lurk (or not participate at all). L urki ng is n ot necessarily a bad thing (see Dennen, 2008). However, students need to actually interact with their peers in order to project themselves as real and there in threaded discussions. And this type of interaction might simply be easier for student s in smaller groups especially those who might have a tendency to lurk in large threaded discussions.

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116 My p er sonal experience teaching in face to face environments has shown me that as the class size gets larger, fewer and fewer studen ts ask questions on th eir own. In my experience, small groups c an force even the shiest and reluctant student to talk to her or his peers. Given this, it might make sense for faculty to utilize small group threaded discussions more at the beginning of a course to help students begin to establish their social presence early on in a given course or program of study. Small groups likely place an additional amount of peer pressure on individual students. Individual students are no longer simply held accountable for their actions by their instructor but also by their peers. In my experience, peers are much more likely to send other peers an email for nonparticipation in small groups especially those that involve group work than they would in large group discussions. Further, these res ults could support the need for the development of a numbe r of small learning communities rather than the typical approach, which too often focuses on developing one all encompassing l earning community with every student in the course More research though needs to be conducted across other samples to confirm that g roup size can in fact influence the development of social presence. Instructional Task I n this study though, group size alone did not guarantee a high level of social presence. For instance, project groups and pairs had a higher social presence density than reading groups even though reading groups were also small groups. This difference in the social presence de nsity likely c ould be due to the instructional task of each threaded discussion. In my experience, students quickly identify what discussions they need to take part in and which one's they do not both in terms of the relevance of the threaded

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117 discussions t owa rd the course and the student's personal and professional goals as well as any points the discussion is worth toward the final grade. Students' participation in both of these threaded discussions was graded and both of these threaded discussions were ti ed to specific assignments that were graded as well. However, a s mentioned in Chapter 4, the reading groups involved identifying questions that resulted from the course readings and then having the instructor answer the questions. As a result, the dynamic of the discussion s appeared to be less goal specific (or at least less clearly defined) as the other two types of s mall threaded discussions. Reading Groups had less peer accountability at least in comparison to the Pairs threaded discussion. Also, more st udent to instru ctor and instructor to student rather t han student to student interaction occurred in these threaded discussions In fact, when looking at the number of posts and the number of words in each post in these threaded discussions the instructor's role in the reading groups is more prominent than in the P airs or P roject groups (see Table 5.2). This does not necessarily mean that instructors should say l ess or avoid direct instruction. I n fact, the CoI argues for the use of direct instruction as one wa y to establish social presence. R ather it might simply suggest that the purpose of a discussion likely influences how and what a student post s and t herefore the amount of social presence behaviors used by both faculty and students Ta ble 5.2 Instructor vs. Student Postings in Small Discussions Reading Groups Pairs Project Groups Posts Words Posts Words Posts Words Student 543 (77%) 42,176 (71%) 219 (83%) 22 087 (89%) 630 (94%) 47 758 (91%) Instructor 165 (23%) 16,860 (29%) 46 (17%) 2,629 (11%) 42 (6%) 4 992 (9%)

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118 The pairs discussion groups had the highest overall density of social presence. While this is likely due in part to the fact that the pairs groups consisted of only two students, it is perhaps equally due to the fact that the pairs group s were tasked with sharing personal things with one another. In fact, the pairs had the highest frequency of affective indicators per post, which is likely largely due to the instructional task. To date though, no research specificall y examines how specific instructional task s in threaded discussion s affect social presence behaviors used in the threaded discussions. Researchers for years have questioned how best to structure threaded discussions (Gilbert & Dabbagh, 2005). And they ha ve shown that the structure of a threaded discussion as well as how an instructor posts thus modeling and setting the tone c an influence how students post (see Dennen, 2005). While Lowenthal and Dunlap (2011) investigated students' perceptions of how speci fic instructional tasks influence students' perceptions of social presence, to date there is a lack of research on how small working groups (working on specific assignments whether group assignments or not ) can help build social presence. T he reason the pairs group had a higher socia l presence density though could also be due in part to the instructors role in these discussions. An, S hin, and Lim (2009) found that "when the instructor' s intervention was minimal, students tended to more freely express thei r thoughts and opinions, with a large numb er of cues for social presence" (p. 749). Thus, while course designers like myself as well as faculty in general seem to prefer clear cut guidelines, it is possible that there are not any clear cut guidelines. The s e results seem to suggest that it could be a combination of small group size, instructional task s that engender interpersonal dialogue, and low instructor involvement that helps

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119 build social presence. But at this point, while this is reasonable, it is simp ly speculation. Additional variables such as one's personal communication style, how discussions are graded, and the relevance of the instructional tasks to name a few, need to be investigated to see how they too influence how social presence manifests Further research needs to be conducted to ver ify how inst ructional tasks (including not only what students are asked to do but also how they are graded a s well as the personal and professional relevance of the assignments) group size, and instructor invol vement c an impact the development of social presence. Past Relationships Constant comparison analysis of the threaded discussions with the highest and the lowest density of social presence revealed that the pairs with the highest social presence density worked together and even c arpooled together. Practitioners have argued for years that online courses whenev er possible should start with face to face meeting s to establish social presence. This finding, though, might suggest something more. It could sugg est that people who have a strong relationship outside of class might have an easier time with interactive, cohesive, and affective types of commu nication than people who do not have a relationship outside of class. This finding is supported by the work of Lowenthal and Dunlap (2011) Lowenthal and Dunlap found that having a positive group project experience with a stu dent helps increase a s tudent's perceptions of social presence between the students in question and helps them maintain future relationships with one another even in the absence of ever meeting face to face. Both of these findings suggest that having a past relationship with someone is helpful when establishing social presence in online courses. It could be that a cohort

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120 model that enables stu dents multiple opportunities to build relationships with other students semester after semester is more valuable (at least when it comes to building social presence) than beginning a course or a program with fac e to face meetings. Walther (1994) argued yea rs ago that the possibility of future interaction can influence the degree to which peop le socially interact online thus further giving support f or cohort models or other types of models that enable students to take multiple courses with the same students and/or with the same instructor. Further research t hough is needed to confirm this because while the students' past relationship emerged in the data in this one group, it was difficult to ascertain whether or not other students had past relationships with their peers and if so to what degree. One Size Doesn't Fit All But perhaps the number one finding of this study from a design perspective as disheartening as it is, is that one size does not fit all. In other words, the results show that while there are trends (e.g., that closed threaded discussions had a higher social presence density than open threaded discussions) there is not always a clear reason as to why some student s use specific social presence behaviors (e.g., paralanguage) and others do not While some students might use ( or some threaded discussions might elicit ) high levels of social presence overall, each of the indicators or at least the categories (i.e., types of social presence) differed across students and types of threaded discussions. This finding supports what Lowenthal and Dunlap (2011) found They found that each student appears to have her or his own threshold for social presence. In other words, different people have their own social presence needs. What works for one student m ight not work for another and what is comfortable or ideal for one student might not be

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121 comfortable or ideal for another Along these lines, it is possible that each person perhaps based in part on his or her own social presence needs has developed their own level of proficiency at utilizing social presence behaviors in threaded discussions. That is, each person has developed different levels of literacy at computer mediated discourse However, a stylistic element appears to affect how people communicate in online learning environments as well. For instance, some students appear to almost habitually use emoticons (like Diana) whereas others do no t appear to use them at all (like Kate, Denise, Dawn, or Laura) It is possible that just as people have different communication styles in face to face environments, that they also have different communication styles in online environments. Further research though is needed to find out why some people use certain types of communication behaviors (e.g., the use of vocatives or paralanguage) and others do not L imitations of S tudying S ocial Pre sence Every research study has some limitations. I address the limitations of this study later in this chapter. For now, though I w ant to address some insights that resulted from studying social presence behaviors in threaded discussions in this study These insights are possible limitations of soc ial presence theory in general (or at least how social presence is conceptualized within the CoI) as well as possible limitations with identifying and quantifying social p resence behaviors in particular While practitioners will likely find little use of these insights, researchers of social presence on the other hand might find this section the most useful contribution of this study.

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122 Situational Variables of CMC As mentioned earlier social presence theory dates back to the work of Short et al. (1976). S hort et al. developed their theory of social presence based on their r esearch o n how t elecommunications effects the way two people communicate. In other words, Short et al. and their theory of social presence originally focused on one to one communication. While instances of one to one CMC (e.g., email) occur more often than not CMC in onl ine courses takes place in threaded discussions that involve three or more communicators. I nstances of one to one communication are found in threaded discussion s But this one to one communication is often done "in front" of others. The "publicness" of CMC in threaded discussions is likely to influence what, when, and how a person communicates in online courses which is perhaps why Tu focused so much on privacy in his early work ( see Chapter 2 and Tu 2000, 2001 2002a, 2002b) and perhaps why students feel m ore comfortable or more pressured to present themselves as real and "there" in small personal groups as opposed to larger impersonal groups. More often than not though communication in t hreaded discussions is a one to many model thus changing the dynam ic and maki ng it more like public speaking. Or when it is one to one, it is like talking to another person on the pho ne but while on a s peaker phone (where others are listening) I contend that t hese changes in the social con text in which one communicates more than an y limitation of the technology likely changes how people communicate and establish themselves as "there" and "real." This becomes important when one starts to think about the indicators of social presence developed by Rourke et al. (2001a).

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123 Ro urke et al. ( 2001a ) claim that they developed these categories and indicators based on their previous work (Gar rison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000 ), other literature in the field, and finally their experience reading online transcripts. However, I posit that w e have reason to believe that as the technology of online threaded discussion forums has improved over the years, as bandwidth has increased, as people's experience using CMC has improved (e.g., the increase in email use and the fact that Facebook has mil lions of users alone are great examples of how people's use or at least comfort and ability with CMC has improved ), and finally as the pedagogies used in online courses ha ve matured, the study of online transcripts has or at least should have changed over the years. In other words, many of these indicators of social presence might no longer be relevant might lack enough specificity, or simply might be base d too much on old assumptions of so called proper ways to communicate with CMC (which were likely in fluenced by the older one to one model of CMC). For instance, while addressing someone by his or her first name might help build a sense of closeness and presence, the genre of CMC that takes place in online courses especially in large threaded discussions often makes it difficult to use certain types of social presence behaviors like addressing someone by her or his first name. For instance, when an instructor is addressing the class as a whole, it does not make sense to begin a post b y mentioning everyone's name. Fur ther, while it might make sense to begin a n initial reply to someone's post by stating her or his first name (to build cohesion ), as a thread continues and the posts go back and forth, an insistence on beginning each post w ith someone's first name could influence the ebb and flow of a conversation and possibly hurt cohesion by making the conversation feel overly formal Another example

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124 of the issues that arise when beginning a post with someone's first name is that times occ ur when an instructor is responding to one student but wants to invite the entire class into the discussion. If an instructor begins the reply with the student's name then it may send a message t o the other students t hat th e post is only for that person a nd not the rest of the class. Another situational variable that is given very little attention in social presence theory in general and specifically in the CoI framework (see Garrison et al., 2000) is how one's role or status can influence not only how but what one communicates and how one is perceived as being "there" or being "real." For instance, it is reasonable to assume that students in an online course even in a so called "learner centered" course are more interested in what their instructor has to s ay than their peers (if only because the instructor will be assigning the ir grade at the end of the semester). In fact, eCollege a Learning Management System used at the University of Colorado Denver recently started highlighting instructors' posts with a different color to differentiate them from the rest thus suggesting that instructors' posts are different than students' posts. While the CoI framework has an element called "teaching presence," as mentioned earlier, it focuses on how instructors design a nd organize a course, facilitate discourse, and provide direct instruction. Teaching presence though does not specifically address how a n instructor establishes his or her own social presenc e, especially given the added task of direct instruction and facilitating discourse I have argued elsewhere (Lowenthal & Lowenthal, 2010) in part building on the work of Swan and Shih (2005) and their differentiation between students and instructors' social presence that one problem with the CoI framework is that it does not differentiate

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125 (or really even acknowledge) how an instructor might establish his or her social presence differently than students. I n my experience, i ns tructors often talk differently than their students this happens both in face to face c lassrooms and online Further, each instructor has her or his own style and level of comfort in the classroom. While some instructors share parts of their personality and will engage in affect ive types of communication, others will not. Further, while inst ructors might build opportunities to establish social presence in their own online c ourses in my experience they often will not engage in these activities with students T he bottom line is that when instructors talk (i.e., post) students tend to listen (i.e., read) This is not always the case when other students talk S tudents are not always as interes ted in what their peers say as in what t heir instructor says I often think about what instructors do to establish their own social presence a nd how the l ittle things they do ( because of their status ) can carry even more weight than if a fellow student did the exact same thing For instance, I posit that when an instructor engages in affective communication (e.g., sharing emotion or self disclosing) it carries more weight than when a student does the same thin g. Further, and because of the difference in roles and status, students tend to talk to an instructor differently than to their peers (i.e., code switch ; see White & Lowenthal, 2011 ). But none o f these dynamics are considered when researchers study social presence. Further, as the result of this study, I have begun thinking about ways that instructors and students can actually thwar t social presence. For instance, what happens when a student po sts a question that nobody acknowledges or responds to? While this likely happens in mos t courses at least once a semester if only because some students

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126 post at the last minute in a given week as a result of this study, I have begun thinking about how detr imen tal it can be if a student self discloses personal information or shares emotional things and nobody responds or acknowledges it. Occurrences like this could possibly result in student s feeling alienated and not acknowledged as being "there" and "real. But so much of the literature on social presence focuses on what people do to establish social presence rather than on things people can do to thwart social presence. Short et al. (1976) originally studied types of communication that were not only one to one but also ongoing in the given moment. I contend that a synchronous threaded discussions in online courses that take place over time, involve a many to many model, likely involve students who have past relationships with each o ther (e.g., from past cour ses) and likely future relationships (e.g., future courses), and consist of individuals who are most likely paying money to be involved in the threaded discussions (and therefore have some extra motivation to effectively communicate with one another and th eir instructor) are a bit more complicated than Short et al. and possibly even Rourke et al. ( 2001a ) could have originall y imagined. I also contend that situational variables like these need to be considered when studying social presence. For instance, while content analysis is a useful technique to study online discussions, quantitative measures or counts of social presence beh aviors might have limited value especially when they do not take into consideration the context in which social behaviors are us ed. Unit of Analysis Among other things, the unit of analysis one uses when conducting content analysis influences the frequency of social presence indicator s. For instance, following past researchers lead (e.g., Rourke et al., 2001a and Swan, 2003 ), for this study I used

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127 the entire discussi on post as the unit of analysis. While I do not regret this decision, I now recognize that the unit of analysis one chooses can largely determine what one see s and what one does not see in her or his findings. I assert that when researchers approach analyzing online threaded discussions from a purely quantitati ve content analysis perspective frequenc y counts are everything. If researchers only count a specific indicator of social presence (e.g., use of emotion) once in a post because the post is the unit of analysis, he or she is likely to miss some details. For instance, you can imagine how many times students might use the word "we" as a group reference within a single post in small group discussions focused on a group project. B ut if the unit of analysis is simply the entire p ost, the high frequency of the use of the word "we" may be lost in the totality of the words I posit that the fr equency of this group reference the word "we" would be captured more accurately if t he unit of analysis was smaller than the entire post (e.g., each meanin gful unit). For example, if a discussion post has the group reference "we" five times in the post this indicator of social presence would only be counted once if the unit of analysis i s the entire post but might be counted up to five times if the unit of analysis was a meaningful unit (which is not always but often the sentence level). Researchers have written much about the ideal unit of analysis when using content analysis to code online discussions ( De Wever, Schellens, Valcke, & Van Keer, 2006; Rourke & Anderson, 2004; Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001 b ). Unfortunately, very little consensus exists on which is the best approach to take because while one might gain granula rity with using a smaller unit of analysis, inter rater reliability decreases and workload increases I finally decided to stick with using the

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128 entire discussion post as my unit of ana ly sis after hearing Wise (Wise & Chiu, 2011) justify her decision for usi ng the entire post as her unit of analysis at AERA. She argued that students read and therefore interact with and make meaning from eac h post in threaded discussions not with each paragraph or word. Future research must investigate how the unit of analysis infl uenc es content analysis results of threaded discussions. Problems with the Social Presence Indicators and Treating T hem Equally To truly understand social presence, researchers idea lly should look at both student s attitudes of social presence as well as students' behaviors online. In other words, researchers need to get a better idea of what specific behaviors elicit perceptions of "closeness" and "realness" in others. The indicators of social presence are a great start but they have limitations (as touched on earlier) For instance, when using them to conduct content analysis, a researcher is supposed to identify when they find an instance of each indicator Let's take greetings and salutations as an example. The problem with this is that greetings and salutations, while similar, are two different things. For instance, one could argue that someone who continually uses a salutation more than a greeting is focusing more on themselves than on acknowledging others in a given threaded discussion. Further, a greeting with a vocative (e.g., "Hi John") is arguably better at developing a sense of presence and projecting oneself as real and there than either "Hi" or ending a post with one's first name. Similarly, the cu rrent coding sheet lists paralanguage as a type of affective communication that establishes social presence. The problem though with using paralanguage as an indicator of social presence is two fold: F irst, all uses of paralanguage are not nec essarily eq ual; second, student s use paralanguage differently. Regarding the

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1 29 first point, some students appear to be chronic users of ellipses and seem to almost use them as a period or a pause rather than in an emotive sense. This use of paralanguage is different th an intentional uses of emoticons and should arguably be treated as being different. Secondly, paralanguage especially the use of anything more than emoticons seems to be a learned behavior that only certain types of students use. In other words, if a stude nt is likely to express her or himself in ALL CAPS or with !!!! then he or she is likely to do it again whereas other students never seem to use this type of communication in threaded discussions. T reating all use s of emotion equally raises other issues For instance, students may use the word "hope but do not appear to be using it in an emotional sense. Similarly, other students use the word "thanks" as a habitual salutation rather than as a sign of appreciation. Given this, i t might be more useful f or researchers to identify levels of ea ch indicator. For instance, researchers can identify instances of emotive text but then they must identify whether it's a strong, medium, or soft use. One way to address some of this is to be able to interact with the participants as one codes the threaded discussions In other words, member checking might be an essential component when identi fying social presence behaviors because reading the text alone might not be enough. Or even better, a researcher should be able to check both the original poster (about intent) as well as all faculty and students about how they perceived the so called social presence behavior because analyzing online discussion behaviors without intent and how the communication behaviors (i.e., the language used in the postings) are perceived is limiting from both a design and a research perspective.

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130 Another problem which I mentioned in Chapter 1 focuses on researchers tendency to treat all three categories and su bsequent indicators of social presence equally. As I mentioned in Chapter 2, some researchers tend to define social presence as not only presenting oneself as real and there but also establishing a positive emotional connection with others. In this cas e, it makes sense that while interactive and cohesive types of communication are important and possibly necessary building blocks for affective communication, affective communic ation is the best way to build an emotional connection with others. In other w ords, simply ending a discussion posting with a salutation is not near as powerful as disclosing personal information. Further research though is needed to test this theory. Problems with Measuring the Community of Inquiry One final observation involves a conflict between the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire which was developed relatively recently by a team of CoI researchers (Arbaugh et al., 2008; Swan et al., 2008) and the indicators of social presence developed by Rourke et al. (2001a). To illustrate m y point, Table 5.3 lists the C ommunity of Inquiry Questionnaire questions for social presence next to Rour ke et al.'s original indicators.

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131 Table 5.3 Measur ing Social Presence in a Community of Inquiry C ommunity of Inquiry Questionnaire Indicators of Social Presence Affective expression 14. Getting to know other course participants gave me a sense of belonging in the course. 15. I was able to form distinct impressions of some course participants. 16. Online or web based communication is an excellent medium for social i nteraction. -Paralanguage -Emotion -Humor -Self Disclosure Open communication 17. I felt comfortable conversing through the online medium. 18. I felt comfortable participating in the course discussions. 19. I felt comfortable interacting with other course participants. -Acknowledgement -Agreement / Disagreement -Invitation -Expressing Appreciation Group cohesion 20. I felt comfortable disagreeing with other course participants while still maintaining a sense of trust. 21. I felt that my point of view was acknowledged by other course participants. 22. Online discussions help me to develop a sense of collaboration. -Greetings & Salutations / Phatics -Vocatives -Group Reference / Inc lusivity -Embracing the Group While keepi ng in mind that the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire is meant to measure student's attitudes and perceptions and the indicators of social presence are meant to identify what students do and say, one would still expect to see more overlap between the two instruments. But when I look at the questions for affe ctive expression and then the indicators for affective expression I see very little overlap. First, the

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132 Community of Inquiry Questionnaire has some strange questions that seem to focus more on the medium than on what a participant does. For instance, ques tion 16 states "o nline or web based communication is an excellent medium for social interaction." Students are asked the degree to which they agree with this statement. But is it not possible that students might agree that CMC can be an excellent medium for social interaction but disagree that CMC has been well used in a specific course ? Then question 14 appears to be inquiring about a student's sense of belonging but the social indicators do not address that. In fact, group cohesion and specifica lly group reference seem like better indicator s of students feeling a sense of belonging to a group. The p roblems continue when one looks at open communication and group cohesion. My point or rather my insight is that researchers who use the Community of Inquiry Questionnaire to study social presence appear to be studying different things than those who us e in dicators of social presence. Limitations of the Study As I mentioned earlier and in Chapter 1 every study suffers from some type of limitation. Perhaps the first limitation of this study is the small sample size. While I intentionally chose this small sa mple as a starting point for my line of research, I recognize that multiple samples might have provided a nice point of comparison. Threaded discussions are rich and full of data for researchers to mine. But I have come to the conclusion that r elying only on threaded discussion s is limiting. A researcher misses the things that might be said i n emails, over the phone, or even in assignments turned in to a drop box. Recently, researchers (Archer, 2010; Shea et al., 2010; Shea et al., 2009; Shea, Vickers, et a l., 2009 ; Shea & Vickers, 2010) have argued about the need to look at an entire course rather than just threaded discussions or survey data when

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133 studying the CoI Like these researchers, I have found that another limitation of this study is that it only f ocused on what was posted in the threaded discussions. Last but not least c onducting content analysis without b eing able to check with student s about the meaning behind their postings as well as how other students interpret their postings is also problem atic a nd perhaps the biggest limitation of studies like this. Concluding Thoughts and Implications Despite the aforementioned limitations, the results of this study can be useful for researchers and practitioners alike. From a research perspective, the study suggests that social presence is much more complicated than previously conceptualized. While it is helpful to inves tigate how students establish and maintain social presence in online courses which in this study was restricted to in vestigating postings in threaded discussions the list of indicators of social presence originally developed by R ourke et al. ( 2001a ) need to be revised. Further, multiple and mixed methods should be employed whenever possible to investigate not only what s tudents do and say but also how these behaviors are perceived by others. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, researchers need to spend more time focusing on how situational variables, such as the size of the group, the instructional task, and the instru ctor's role, in combination with personal preferences influence how social presence is established and maintained. Research though should inform practice. The results of this study despite limitations, have a number of pedagogical implications that instructional designers and faculty alike can apply. For instance the results of this study point to the importance of the intentional use of different types of group activities and threaded discussions. Much like in large lecture classrooms, students ta king part in large threaded discussions might

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134 feel that their voice is lost, that it is simply too hard to reach out and be heard, and that it is too difficult to project one's personality. Further, rather than having several small weekly threaded discussi ons, it might make more sense at least from a social presence perspective to include some longer project based discussions w ith smaller groups that take place over multiple weeks. The results also argue for the importance of "positive" past relationships with students. Developing a traditional cohort model where students complete their entire program of study with the same group of students is one way to help leverage the power of past relationships to build social presence. This research, though simply s uggests that it might be advantageous in terms of social presence to have students take a few back to back courses that build upon one another together, and involve the students in well orchestrated group work. This research also seems to suggest that havi ng the same instructor teach more than one course (and possibly back to b ack) could be powerful in terms of leveraging past relationships between instructors and students this though assumes the past relationships are positive. However, when it is not pos sible to have students complete their program of study in a cohort or take back to back courses, designers and faculty could focus on having both getting to know you activities upfront as well as reconnecting activities throughout a given course (see Dunla p & Lowenthal, 2011 in press for more on "getting to know you" strategies that can be used in the beginning of a course as well as throughout a course ). Finally, it is likely that a magic social presence formula does not exist Each student might have her or his own sensitivity to and proficiency at projecting her or

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135 himself as "real" and being "there" and specifically establishing connections with others. Therefore, instructors and designers must try to find multiple and continual ways for students an d instructors to present themselves as "real" and "there" in threaded discussions as well as other parts of online courses. For instance, some of the strategies I have used and written about with colleagues to establish and maintain social presence involv e using digital stories (see Lowenthal & Dunlap, 2007, 2010), using social media (see Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009a, 2009b) using digital music (see Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2010 b ), giving feedback publicly (see Lowenthal & Thomas 2010), and making one on one pho ne calls to students (see Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2010 a ). Given all of this, and in conclusion, designers and faculty should consider the following elements the next time that they design or teach a course: Set up a variety of small group discussion groups ; Provide well structured small group assignments that take time and collaboration to complete ; Balance instructor involvement ; Establish incentives for students to take part in threaded discussions ; Use a variety of instructional tasks and discussio n prompts some of which ask for students to share personal and emotional details (when appropriate).

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136 APPENDIX A Social Presence Measures Table A1 Feelings about CMC 1. Stimulating dull 2. Personal impersonal 3. Sociable unsociable 4. Sensitive insensitive 5. Warm cold 6. Colorful colorless 7. Interesting boring 8. Appealing not appealing 9. Interactive noninteractive 10. Active passive 11. Reliable unreliable 12. Humanizing dehumanizing 13. Immediate non immediate 14. Easy difficult 15. Efficient inefficient 16. Unthreatening threatening 17. Helpful hindering No te From Social Presence Theory and Implications for Interaction and Collaborative Learning in Computer Conferences, by C. N. Gunawardena, 1995, in International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1 (2/3), 147 166.

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137 Table A2 Social Presence Scale 1. Messages in GlobalEd were impersonal. 2. CMC is an excellent medium for social interaction. 3. I felt comfortable conversing through this text based medium. 4. I felt comfortable introducing myself on GlobalEd. 5. The introduction enabled me to form a sense of online community. 6. I felt comfortable participating in GlobalEd discussions. 7. The moderators created a feeling of online community. 8. The moderators facilitated discussions in the GlobalEd conference. 9. Discussions using the medium of CMC tend to be more impersonal th an face to face discussion. 10. CMC discussions are more impersonal than audio conference discussions. 11. CMC discussions are more impersonal than video teleconference discussions. 12. I felt comfortable interacting with other participants in the conference. 13. I felt t hat my point of view was acknowledged by other participants in GlobalEd. 14. I was able to form distinct individual impressions of some GlobalEd participants even though we communicated only via a text based medium. Note From Social Presence as a Predictor of Satisfaction Within a Computer mediated Conferencing Environment, by C. N. Gunawardena and F. J. Zittle, 1997, in The American Journal of Distance Education, 11 (3), 8 26.

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138 Table A3 Model and Template for Assessment of Social Presence Category Indicators Definition of Indicators Affective Responses Expression of emotions Conventional expressions of emotion, or unconventional expressions of emotion, includes repetitious punctuation, conspi cuous capitalization, emoticons Use of Humor Teasing, cajoling, irony, understatements, sarcasm Self Disclosure Presents details of life outside of cl ass, or expresses vulnerability Interactive Responses Continuing a Thread Using reply feature of software, ra ther than starting a new thread Quoting from Other Messages Using software features to quote others entire message or cutting and pasti ng sections of others' messages Referri ng explicitly to other messages Direct references to contents of others' posts Asking questions Students ask q uestions of other students or the moderator Complimenting, expressing appreciation Complimenting others or contents of others' messages Expressing agreement Expressing agreement with others or content of others' messages Cohesive Responses Vocatives Addressing or referring to participants by name Addresses or refers to the group using inclusive pronouns Addresses the group as we, us, our, group Phatics / Salutations Communication that serves a purely social function; greetings, closures Note From "Assessing Social Presence in Asynchronous Text based Computer Conferencing," by L. Rourke, D. R. Garrison, and W. Archer, 2001a, in Journal of Distance Education 14.

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139 Table A4 Additional Social Presence Variables Dimensions I. Social Context II. Online Communication III. Interactivity IV. Privacy Familiarity with recipients Keyboarding and accuracy skills Timely Response Formats of CMC Assertive / acquiescent Use of emoticons and paralanguage Communication Styles Access and Location Informal/formal relationship Characteristics of real time discussion Length of Messages Patterns of CMC Trust relationships Characteristics of discussion boards Formal/Informal Social relationships (love and information) Language skills (reading, writing) Type of tasks (planning, creativity, social tasks) Psychological attitude toward technology Size of Groups Access and location Communication strategies User's characteristics Note From The Relationship of Social Presence and Interaction in Online Classes, by C. H. Tu and M. McIsaac, 2002, in The American Journal of Distance Education, 16 (3), 131 150.

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140 Table A5 Communit y of Inquiry Survey Instrument 5 point Likert scale 1=strongly disagree, 2=disagree, 3=neutral, 4=agree, 5= strongly agree Teaching Presence Design & Organization 1. The instructor clearly communicated important course topics. 2. The instructor clearly communicated important course goals. 3. The instructor provided clear instructions on how to participate in course learning activities. 4. The instructor clearly communicated important due dates/time frames for learning activities. Facilitation 5. The instructor was helpful in identifying areas of agreement and disagreement on course topics that h elped me to learn. 6. The instructor was helpful in guiding the class towar ds understanding course topics in a way that helped me clarify my thinking. 7. The instructor helped to keep course participant s engaged and participating in productive dialogue. 8. The instructor helped keep the course participant s on task in a way that helped me to learn. 9. The instructor encouraged course participants t o explore new concepts in this course. 10. Instructor actions reinforced the development of a sense of community among course participants. Direct Instruction 11. The instructor helped to focus discussion on releva nt issues in a way that helped me to learn. 12. The instructor provided feedback that helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses. 13. The instruct or provided feedback in a timely fashion. Social Presence Affective expression 14. Getting to know other course participants gave me a sense of belonging in the course. 15. I was able to form distinct impressions of some course participants. 16. Online or web based communication is an excellent medium for social interaction. Open communication 17. I felt comfortable conversing through the online medium. 18. I felt comfortable participating in the course discussions. 19. I felt comfortable int eracting with other course participants. Group cohesion 20. I felt comfortable disagreeing with other c ourse participants while still maintaining a sense of trust. 21. I felt that my point of view was acknowledged by other course participants. 22. Online discussions help me to develop a sense of collaboration.

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141 Tab le A5 (con't.) Cognitive Presence Triggering event 23. Problems posed increased my interest in course issues 24. Course activities piqued my curiosity. 25. I felt motivated to explore content related questions. Exploration 26. I utilized a variety of information sources to explore problems posed in this course. 27. Brainstorming and finding relevant information hel ped me resolve content related questions. 28. Online discussions were va luable in h elping me appreciate different perspectives. Integration 29. Combining new information helped me answe r questions raised in course activities. 30. Learning activities helped me construct explanations/solutions. 31. Reflection on course content and di scussions helped me understand fundamental concepts in this class. Resolution 32. I can describe ways to test and apply the knowledge created in this course. 33. I have developed solutions to course problems that can be applied in practice. 34. I can apply the knowledge created in this course to my work or other non class related activities. Note From Validating a Measurement Tool of Presence in Online Communities of Inquiry," by K. Swan, P. Shea, J. Richardson, P. Ice, D. R. Garrison, M. Cleveland Innes, and J. B. Arbaugh, 2008, in E Mentor, 2 (24), 1 12.

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142 APPENDIX B Word Count Results Table B1 Word Count Results a cross All Forums Rank Word Count Percentage (%) 1 I 4858 4.13 2 you 2186 1.86 3 have 1428 1.21 4 we 1367 1.16 5 my 1001 0.85 6 what 948 0.81 7 do 814 0.69 8 your 810 0.69 9 can 730 0.62 10 policy 600 0.51 11 me 595 0.51 12 all 592 0.50 13 about 574 0.49 14 bob 566 0.48 15 so 565 0.48 16 instructor 564 0.48 17 think 553 0.47 18 our 538 0.46 19 work 494 0.42 20 would 482 0.41 21 one 456 0.39 22 how 454 0.39 23 reading 428 0.36 24 week 421 0.36 25 from 414 0.35 26 some 414 0.35 27 more 407 0.35 28 just 392 0.33 29 know 390 0.33 30 need 383 0.33 31 get 381 0.32 32 group 348 0.30 33 doc 346 0.29 34 also 345 0.29 35 an 341 0.29 36 well 334 0.28 37 out 328 0.28 38 school 324 0.28 39 like 320 0.27 40 good 318 0.27 41 thanks 313 0.27 42 here 302 0.26 43 which 288 0.24 44 other 281 0.24 45 should 275 0.23 46 data 264 0.22 47 i'm 264 0.22 48 paper 261 0.22 49 could 254 0.22 50 research 251 0.21

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143 Table B2 Word Count Results a cross Project Groups Rank Word Count Percentage (%) 1 I 1674 4.08 2 you 729 1.78 3 we 678 1.65 4 have 497 1.21 5 what 387 0.94 6 do 267 0.65 7 can 261 0.64 8 your 258 0.63 9 may 255 0.62 10 our 251 0.61 11 all 241 0.59 12 think 221 0.54 13 my 215 0.52 14 so 214 0.52 15 data 202 0.49 16 policy 193 0.47 17 would 184 0.45 18 some 181 0.44 19 need 176 0.43 20 me 173 0.42 21 about 171 0.42 22 from 169 0.41 23 paper 169 0.41 24 work 166 0.40 25 how 161 0.39 26 draft 155 0.38 27 just 150 0.37 28 know 150 0.37 29 also 144 0.35 30 bob 142 0.35 31 instructor 142 0.35 32 more 139 0.34 33 out 136 0.33 34 should 133 0.32 35 thanks 132 0.32 36 get 130 0.32 37 schools 127 0.31 38 mary 125 0.30 39 here 122 0.30 40 good 120 0.29 41 doc 118 0.29 42 like 114 0.28 43 could 112 0.27 44 group 112 0.27 45 make 111 0.27 46 project 111 0.27 47 week 111 0.27 48 school 109 0.27 49 programs 108 0.26 50 well 107 0.26

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144 Table B3 Word Count Results a cross Pairs Rank Word Count Percentage (%) 1 I 960 4.87 2 you 438 2.22 3 my 339 1.72 4 have 291 1.48 5 we 209 1.06 6 your 189 0.96 7 me 148 0.75 8 what 145 0.74 9 do 130 0.66 10 work 123 0.62 11 about 119 0.60 12 goals 116 0.59 13 can 110 0.56 14 our 102 0.52 15 how 100 0.51 16 school 97 0.49 17 time 88 0.45 18 teachers 85 0.43 19 goal 84 0.43 20 some 82 0.42 21 would 82 0.42 22 think 79 0.40 23 bob 76 0.39 24 instructor 76 0.39 25 need 75 0.38 26 know 73 0.37 27 so 72 0.37 28 an 71 0.36 29 week 66 0.34 30 well 65 0.33 31 all 63 0.32 32 out 62 0.31 33 been 61 0.31 34 like 61 0.31 35 more 60 0.30 36 one 60 0.30 37 also 59 0.30 38 from 58 0.29 39 just 57 0.29 40 get 55 0.28 41 see 55 0.28 42 good 54 0.27 43 when 54 0.27 44 where 54 0.27 45 i'm 53 0.27 46 each 52 0.26 47 help 52 0.26 48 students 52 0.26 49 other 51 0.26 50 plan 50 0.25

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145 Table B4 Word Count Results a cross Reading Groups Rank Word Count Percentage (%) 1 I 1784 3.79 2 you 802 1.70 3 have 532 1.13 4 we 416 0.88 5 what 358 0.76 6 do 348 0.74 7 policy 344 0.73 8 my 328 0.70 9 can 297 0.63 10 reading 293 0.62 11 your 283 0.60 12 one 255 0.54 13 about 242 0.51 14 all 231 0.49 15 think 227 0.48 16 me 226 0.48 17 so 225 0.48 18 instructor 222 0.47 19 bob 221 0.47 20 week 202 0.43 21 summary 196 0.42 22 doc 190 0.40 23 would 185 0.39 24 more 175 0.37 25 how 171 0.36 26 our 165 0.35 27 get 164 0.35 28 from 162 0.34 29 questions 161 0.34 30 work 156 0.33 31 just 155 0.33 32 log 151 0.32 33 group 141 0.30 34 which 141 0.30 35 an 139 0.29 36 know 138 0.29 37 research 138 0.29 38 some 138 0.29 39 well 131 0.28 40 democratic 130 0.28 41 good 128 0.27 42 L asswell 128 0.27 43 also 126 0.27 44 chapter 122 0.26 45 here 122 0.26 46 has 117 0.25 47 like 115 0.24 48 thanks 114 0.24 49 heck 113 0.24 50 any 112 0.24

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146 APPENDIX C Constant Comparison Analysis Results Table C.1 Reading Group E Codes Codes Generated Acknowledging lack of knowledge Greeting Reflection Addressing question Happiness Reflection about course material Advice Heading Relating Agreement Hope Relating to Others Answer Hoping for help Research discussion Answering questions Humor Resource Anticipation Justification of example Resource recommendation Apology Likes course reading Response Appreciation Note Reveal life outside of class Assignment discussion Opinion Reveal life outside of class as relates to class Belief Paralanguage Reveal problems Bias Personal course interests Reveal struggling Clarification Personal example Reveals lack of knowledge Commitment to more discussion Personal interest in course stuff Salutation Complimenting texts Personal interest in reading Shares thinking about thinking Contextualizing Point Personal Life Details Shares thoughts about reading Critique Personal story Sharing thoughts Critique of writing Personal study details Sharing values Discussing Reading Personalization of Material Showing relevance Discussing policy Philosophical Discussion Story example Doubt Plan Thinking about reading Empathy Plea Thinking about the course Enjoyment Policy answer Thinking about thinking Example Positive feedback Thought Example of criticism Positive thinking Thoughts about policy Excitement Question Thoughts about reading Explaining struggles Quotation Vocative Explanation Reading discussion Wonder General Policy Discussion Recommendation Worth mentioning Grade details Recommending other sources

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147 Table C.2 Reading Group E Groups Grouping of Codes Course logistics & facilitation Addressing question Answering questions Critique Critique of writing Grade details Heading Question Advice Recommendation Recommending other sources Policy Related Class Discussions Reflection Reflection about course material Thinking about reading Thinking about the course Thinking about thinking General Policy Discussion Discussing reading Discussing policy Thoughts about policy Thoughts about reading Policy answer Shares thinking about thinking Shares thoughts about reading Sharing thoughts Research discussion Showing relevance Belief Bias Thought Wonder Worth mentioning Response Resource Resource recommendation Personal interest in course stuff Personal interest in reading Plan Personalization of Material Philosophical Discussion Complimenting texts Contextualizing Point Justification of example Likes course reading Note Opinion Assignment discussion Quotation Reading discussion Example Example of criticism Clarification Commitment to more discussion Personal course interests Answer Explanation Emotion Anticipation Paralanguage Apology Doubt Empathy Enjoyment Excitement Happiness Hope Hoping for help Plea Humor Greetings and Salutations Greeting Salutation Vocative Sharing Life Details Personal example Personal story Story example Reveal life outside of class Reveal life outside of class as relates to class Personal Life Details Personal study details Gracious / Gratitude Appreciation Positive feedback Positive thinking Self Disclosing Personal Matters Explaining struggles Acknowledging lack of knowledge Reveal problems Reveal struggling Reveals lack of knowledge Sharing values Playing Nice with Others Agreement Relating Relating to Others

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148 Table C.3 Pair9 Codes Codes Generated Acknowledgement Positive feedback Agreement Positive self assessment Answer to question Question Anticipation Question about meeting Appreciation Reassurance Assignment details Recommendation Assignment discussion Reference education literature Best wishes Reflection Brainstorming Relating Commitment Relating to others Concern Request Confidence in peers Reveal uncertainty Course planning Revealing concerns Doubt Revealing life in other courses Emotion Revealing struggles Enjoyment Revealing thinking Explanation Revealing unawareness Explanation for struggles Salutation Feeling overwhelmed Self assessment Greeting Self disclosure Happiness Sharing course plans Heading Sharing plans Hope Sharing successes Inquiring about life outside of course Thanks Introspection Thinking about policy invitation Thinking out loud Likes idea Thoughts on assignments Paralanguage Thoughts on instructor Personal sharing Thoughts on leadership Plan to collaborate Understanding task Plans Vocative Plans to meet

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149 Table C.4 Pair9 Groups Course logistics & facilitation Collaboration Recommendation Question Request invitation Understanding task Assignment details Assignment discussion Heading Question about meeting Course planning Plan to collaborate Plans Plans to meet Sharing course plans Sharing plans Emotion Sharing Life Details Concern Anticipation Happiness Doubt Emotion Enjoyment Feeling overwhelmed Hope Paralanguage Introspection Personal sharing Reflection Self assessment Revealing life in other courses Positive self assessment Sharing successes Inquiring about life outside of course Playing Nice with Others Policy Related Class Discussions Relating Relating to others Acknowledgement Agreement Answer to question Likes idea Confidence in peers Commitment Reassurance Reference education literature Brainstorming Thinking about policy Thinking out loud Thoughts on assignments Thoughts on instructor Thoughts on leadership Revealing thinking Explanation Self Disclosing Personal Matters Gracious / Gratitude Revealing unawareness Revealing struggles Self disclosure Reveal uncertainty Revealing concerns Exp lanation for struggles Positive feedback Best wishes Appreciation Thanks Greetings and Salutations Greeting Vocative Salutation

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