The importance of online social presence: findings from a correlational study of 422 online doctoral students.
Concurrent Session 8
A quantitative study of 422 doctoral students revealed a strong positive correlation between online social presence and learner satisfaction. The study demonstrated the importance of social presence of online doctoral programs to increase student retention, improve instructor effectiveness, build a sense of community, and increase knowledge.
As the number of students studying in online doctoral programs continues to grow, research has primarily focused on undergraduate and master’s level programs, leaving a void in the literature regarding online doctoral studies. This presentation examines a quantitative study of 422 doctoral students. The results revealed a strong positive correlation between online social presence and learner satisfaction. The study demonstrated the importance of social presence of online doctoral programs to increase student retention, improve instructor effectiveness, build a sense of community, and increase knowledge.
Social presence could be the under-researched strategy to improving online learning. Social presence has been descibed as a “master conductor that synchronizes the instructor, students, norms, academic content, learning management system (LMS), media, tools, instructional strategies, and outcomes within a learning experience” (Whiteside, 2015, p. 11).
The research presented answers the question "Does a Perceived Increase in Social Presence Online Result in an Increase in Learner Satisfaction?". As you consider the answer to the research question in your own academic context, you will be challenged to consider how you can improve social presence and, ultimately, learning overall.
Level of Participation
The session will start with participants breaking into small groups of 2 and 3 to connect through a 'speed intro' process of 5-7 minutes in order to create a sense of community and connectivity with one another (face-to-face social presence). Participants will share the results of the exercise and its impact on engagement. The conversation will then transition to engage participants to imagine what the same conversation would look like in an asynchronous online setting (online social presence). This participation will challenge participants, through examination of the research findings and conclusions, to consider how to increase social presence which will result in increased student retention, improve instructor effectiveness, build a sense of community, and increase knowledge.
Individuals attending this education session will be challenged to consider the role of social presence in online education. Interaction among attendees will provide thought provoking insight into intentional strategies and techniques that can improve online social presence in the higher ed setting. Specifically, online doctoral program designers, administrators and faculty may draw from the research and be able to develop program specific tools for evaluation and accreditation purposes.