Feeling Real: Establishing Social Presence in Online Discussions

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Presenters will share findings and examples of four teaching strategies that emerged from their qualitative action research study investigating social presence of students in three different graduate level online learning communities. Participants will learn how to enrich online social presence, students’ sense of community and feeling like a real person.



Jennifer Carlson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Hamline University where she teaches literacy courses in the Education Doctorate, masters programs, K-12 reading license, and initial teaching licensure program. With a growth mindset, she continues to deepen her engagement and understanding of literacy practices using multimodal texts, technology, literacy assessment and teacher leadership. Her key areas of scholarship include online teaching and learning, school partnerships, literacy methods, leadership, and literature.

Extended Abstract

This session is based on Hamline University, School of Education’s effort to increase the quality and quantity of online offerings across graduate education programs. This qualitative action research study investigated the social presence of students in three different graduate level online learning communities. The researchers employed four different discussion forums to answer the research question: How does incorporating a variety of discussion forum designs enhance social presence in an online course? This presentation will describe the research study and techniques used to enhance students’ ability to build community and engage in circles of learning. Results reveal that the techniques successfully created pathways for cohesive interaction, cultivated social presence and established an online learning environment where the learner feels real.

While participating in the sessions, participants will reflect on strategies to enrich social presence in an online learning environment and compile online discussion format tools and strategies for implementation in their own setting. Participants will select a metaphor card with a visual that best represents the reflections and ideas they have for developing community and social presence in online learning environments.