Instructional Strategies and Digital Tools to Enhance Social Presence in Online Teaching

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Brief Abstract

Research shows that social presence is important in online teaching and learning. Based on research and practice, this session will share instructional strategies and digital tools to enhance social presence. Attendees will take away ideas and resources to enhance social presence and support student learning in their own online teaching.



Hong Wang is a professor and serves as Associate Director of Instructional Technology Training at NOVA Online in Northern Virginia Community College, one of the largest community colleges in the United States. She has worked in higher education for over 20 years with extensive experience in course design, online teaching, technology integration, faculty training and development, and event planning and program management. She has been managing training programs on blended learning and online teaching for the college. As a Quality Matters certified online facilitator and peer course reviewer of online courses, Hong enjoys collaboration with faculty and colleagues to build a community of effective practices in online and blended courses to support student success. Hong holds a doctorate in educational technology from Kansas State University with master’s degrees in English and educational technology. She has been active in the field through professional services and presentations at national and international conferences on educational technology and online learning.

Extended Abstract

Research (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000; Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Short et al., 1976) has showed that social presence is important in online learning environments and studying in social presence has evolved. Short et al. (1976) suggest that social presence is an important attribute of a communication medium that can determine the way people interact in a mediated environment. Other researchers (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) suggest that the individual, in addition to technology, could determine perceived levels of social presence. Individual differences in communication style and preferences could affect interpretation of social information. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) define social presence as the ability of online learners to project themselves socially and emotionally as real people.

The most recent research conceptualizes social presence as a facilitating element to focus on interactive learning activities and developing online learning communities. The community of inquiry (Garrison, 2009) is likely the most influential theoretical framework for social presence in online learning environments. It indicates that social presence can be an important element affecting the development of a sense of community among learners. It supports teaching presence and cognitive presence in online learning.  

This session will share instructional strategies and digital tools to enhance social presence in online teaching. With extensive experience in course design and online teaching, the presenter will share different ways to enhance social presence in online teaching to support student learning. Audience will take away ideas and resources to enhance social presence in their own online teaching. 

Level of Participation:
The session will start with a brief introduction to social presence, followed by ideas and resource sharing through examples, and end with questions and an interactive activity to collectively share ideas and resources to enhance social presence in online teaching.  

Session Goals:
After this session, the attendees will be able to have a better understanding of social presence and its important role in online teaching and learning. They will have an opportunity to learn and share strategies and tools to enhance social presence and support student learning, with a takeaway of online resources that they can apply in their own online teaching.  


Garrison, D. R. (2009). Communities of inquiry in online learning. In P. L. Rogers (Ed.), Encyclopedia of distance learning (2nd ed.) (pp. 352-355). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105.

Gunawardena, C. N. (1995). Social presence theory and implications for interaction and collaborative learning in computer conferences. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2/3), 147-166.

Gunawardena, C. N., & Zittle, F. J. (1997). Social presence as a predictor of satisfaction within a computer-mediated conferencing environment. The American Journal of Distance Education, 11(3), 8-26.

Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. London: John Wiley & Sons.