Mathieson & Leafman

Comparison of Student and Instructor Perceptions of Social Presence

Kathleen Mathieson, Ph.D., CIP, Doctor of Health Sciences Program, A.T. Still University, Arizona
Joan S. Leafman, Ph.D., Doctor of Health Sciences Program, A.T. Still University, Arizona


As enrollment in online courses continues to grow and online education is increasingly recognized as an established instructional mode, the unique challenges posed by this learning environment should be addressed. A primary challenge for virtual educators is developing social presence such that participants feel a sense of human connection with each other. Accomplishing this within learning management systems (LMS) that are often restrictive can be difficult. Prior research has established a relationship between student perceptions of social presence and satisfaction, but little research has included perceptions of instructors. This study compares student and instructor perceptions of social presence and the importance placed on social connections. While students and instructors reported high levels of social presence, students reported significantly lower levels than instructors. In particular, students found the LMS more impersonal than instructors and were less comfortable participating in LMS activities than instructors. Students had less desire for social connections with other students and instructors, and reported having less time available for such connections. Strategies to facilitate social presence, including offering social networking opportunities outside the LMS, are discussed in light of these differences in perceptions between students and instructors.


Social Presence, Community of Inquiry, Social Media, Social Networking, Student Perceptions, Instructor Perceptions

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