Description: Social Presence

Man on Videoconference MonitorsSocial presence is the ability of learners to project their personal characteristics into the community of inquiry, thereby presenting themselves as ‘real people.’

Instructional media such as computer conferencing engender high levels of student-student and student-teacher interaction; therefore, they can support models of teaching and learning that are highly interactive and consonant with the communicative ideals of university education. This potential, and the ubiquity of computer conferencing in higher education prompted three of the authors of the present paper to develop a Community of Inquiry model that synthesizes pedagogical principles with the inherent instructional and access benefits of computer conferencing (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). The present article explicates one element of the model, social presence. Social presence is defined as the ability of learners to project themselves socially and affectively into a community of inquiry. A template for assessing social presence in computer conferencing is presented, through content analysis of conferencing transcripts. To facilitate explication of the scheme and subsequent replication of this study, selections of coded transcripts are included, along with inter-rater reliability figures. The article concludes with a discussion of the implications and benefits of assessing social presence for instructors, conference moderators, and researchers.

Rourke, L., Anderson, T. Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing social presence in asynchronous, text-based computer conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(3), 51-70.