Social Presence Papers

The following articles which focus primarily on the social presence aspect of the Community of Inquiry are listed here in descending publication order (most recent at top).

Armellini, A., & De Stefani, M. (2016). Social presence in the 21st century: An adjustment to the Community of Inquiry framework. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(6), 1202-1216.

Kovanovic, V., Joksimovic, S., &  Gasevic, D. (2015).  What is the Source of Social Capital? The Association Between Social Network Position and Social Presence in Communities of Inquiry. CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Available online at

It is widely accepted that the social capital of students – developed through their participation in learning communities – has a significant impact on many aspects of the students’ learning outcomes, such as academic performance, persistence, retention, program satisfaction and sense of community. However, the underlying social processes that contribute to the development of social capital are not well understood. By using the popular Community of Inquiry (CoI) model of distance and online education, we looked into the nature of the underlying social processes, and how they relate to the development of the students’ social capital. The results of our study indicate that the affective, cohesive and interactive facets of social presence significantly predict the network centrality measures commonly used for measurement of social capital.

Joksimovic, S., Gasevic, D., Kovanovic, V. Riecke, B.E.. & Hatala, M. (2015).  Social presence in online discussions as a
process predictor of academic performance. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Available online at

With the steady development of online education and online learning environments, possibilities to support social interactions between students have advanced significantly. This study examined the relationship between indicators of social presence and academic performance. Social presence is defined as students’ ability to engage socially with an online learning community. The results of a multiple regression analysis showed that certain indicators of social presence were significant predictors of final grades in a master’s level computer science online course. Moreover, the study also revealed that teaching presence moderated the association between social presence and academic performance, indicating that a course design that increased the level of meaningful interactions between students had a significant impact on the development of social presence, and thus could positively affect students’ academic performance. This is especially important in situations when discussions are introduced to promote the development of learning outcomes assessed in courses. Another implication of our results is that indicators of social presence can be used for early detection of students at risk of failing a course. Findings inform research and practice in the emerging field of learning analytics by prompting the opportunities to offer actionable insights into the reasons why certain students are lagging behind.

Annand, D. (2011). Social Presence within the Community of Inquiry Framework The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), 12(5),

The role of social presence as defined by the community of inquiry (CoI) framework is critiqued through a review of recent literature. Evidence is presented that questions the actual extent of knowledge co-construction that occurs in most higher education settings and therefore challenges the framework’s underlying assumption of the need for sustained, contiguous, two-way communication in higher-level online learning environments. The CoI framework has evolved from the description of a learning process within a social constructivist paradigm to an empirically testable construct in an objectivist paradigm. Related research results indicate that social presence does not impact cognitive presence in a meaningful way and that best teaching practices suggested by CoI-based studies are informed by objectivist, cognitively oriented learning theories. These suggest that higher-order cognition may be achieved through wide and varied combinations of learner–teacher, learner–content, and learner–learner interaction. Controlled studies can and should be undertaken to compare learning outcomes using sustained, contiguous, two-way communication to other learning models. To facilitate this, subcategories of social and teaching presences need to be revamped and analysis adjusted to separate processes that support explicitly group-based learning activities from those used by individual students.

Lowenthal, P. R. & Dunlap, J. C. (2010). From Pixel on a Screen to Real Person in Your Students’ Lives: Establishing Social Presence Using Digital Storytelling. Internet and Higher Education, 13(1), 70-72.

The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework is a comprehensive guide to the research “and” practice of online learning. One of the most challenging aspects of establishing a CoI in online courses is finding the best way to attend to each element of the CoI framework in a primarily text-based environment. In our online courses, we have examined the use of digital storytelling as a way to break down the barriers that can get in the way of achieving a healthy and productive CoI. In this paper, we describe how we use digital storytelling to establish our social presence as instructors.

Dunlap, J.C. & Lowenthal, P.R. (2009). Tweeting the Night Away: Using Twitter to Enhance Social Presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 20(2), 129-135.

To be truly effective, online learning must facilitate the social process of learning. This involves providing space and opportunities for students and faculty to engage in social activities. Although learning management systems offer several tools that support social learning and student engagement, the scope, structure, and functionality of those tools can inhibit and restrain just-in-time social connections and interactions. In this teaching tip, we describe our use of Twitter to encourage free flowing just-in-time interactions and how these interactions can enhance social presence in online courses. We then describe instructional benefits of Twitter, and conclude with guidelines for incorporating Twitter in online courses.

Lomicka, L. & Lord, G. (2007). Social presence in virtual communities of foreign language (FL) teachers. System, 35, 208 – 228.

This paper investigates the development of social presence in communities of language teachers at two universities. Specifically, our research sheds light on how social presence is characterized according to the technological tools used to link the community of language teachers. Over the period of a 14 week semester, nine electronic journal entries were collected from 14 FL teachers-in-training. The participants were divided into three different groups: traditional journalers (four individuals), dialogue journalers (two pairs), and group journalers (six students). Using the theoretical framework for communities of inquiry created by (Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Archer, W., Garrison, D.R., 2001. Assessing social presence in asynchronous, text-based computer conferences. Journal of Distance Education 14, 51-70), the discourse from each of these discussions was coded and analyzed to investigate changes in social presence in conjunction with the technological tools used to link the communities. Results suggest that while paired and group journalers produced more discourse than the traditional journalers, social presence trends vary across each type of journaling, and each group co-constructs their social presence differently.

Nippard, E. & Murphy, E. (2007). Social Presence in the Web-based Synchronous Secondary Classroom. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 33(1).

The purpose of the study reported on in this paper was to explore how teachers and students manifest social presence in the web-based synchronous secondary classroom (WBSSC). Data were collected using structured and unstructured observations of twelve online recordings of web-based synchronous classes in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Structured observations were guided by an instrument developed by Rourke, Anderson, Garrison and Archer (2001) for identifying and measuring social presence in an online context. Findings revealed that teachers and students relied on different tools when providing affective, interactive and cohesive responses related to social presence. Manifestations of social presence by the teachers occurred through use of two-way audio whereas students relied on text-based Direct Messaging. Expressions of social presence by the students and teachers occurred most often in a context of digressions that drew attention away from the delivery of content. In addition, students demonstrated social presence using discourse conventions transferred from informal social contexts of instant messaging such as ICQ and MSN.

Rogers, P. & Lea. M (2005). Social presence in distributed group environments: the role of social identity. Behavior & Information Technology, 24(2), 151 – 158.

This paper argues that to achieve social presence in a distributed environment, it is not necessary to emulate face-to-face conditions of increased cues to the interpersonal. Rather, it is argued, that a sense of belongingness to the group, or perceptual immersion in the group, can be realised through the creation of a shared social identity between group members. From this perspective, social presence is a function of the cognitive representation of the group by group members and not the interpersonal bonds between group members. Furthermore, specific design features and characteristics of the distributed learning environment can be utilised to achieve and maintain this shared group identity. This approach, encapsulated by the SIDE model, is discussed and supported by two case studies of distributed students, each consisting of 10 groups, collaborating for a period of 5 weeks on group projects.

Delfino, M. & Manca, S. (2007). The expression of social presence through the use of figurative language in a web based learning environment. Computers in Human Behavior, 23, 2190-2211.

The present paper’s aim is to investigate how the participants of an online learning environment employed written language in a creative way through the spontaneous use of figurative language. The content analysis showed that figurative language was a means to express the social dimension either to refer to the self, feelings and emotions, or to conceptualize the components of the virtual learning setting. The research context was a 10-week course, delivered at a distance via a computer conferencing system, addressed to 57 student teachers. The analysis was carried out in the social and meta-cognitive reflection areas, those areas which are mainly related to the expression of the social dimension The study had three different purposes: to investigate the distribution of figurative language during the course length; to explore the relation between the participants’ educational background and their use of figurative language, and to examine the relation between figurative language and the structure of the communication threads. The results indicate that participants tended to use figurative language more when meaningful or critical events happened. The higher the emotional involvement was, the more metaphorical language was adopted. Further results suggest that the adoption of figurative language seems to be related more to individual attitude, than to other factors such as educational background. Finally, figurative language occurrences were not concentrated in specific kinds of postings or threads and did not encourage further use of figurative language.

Swan, K. & Shih, L.F. (2005). On the Nature and Development of Social Presence in Online course Discussions. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 9 (3), 115-136.

“Social presence,” the degree to which participants in computer-mediated communication feel affectively connected one to another, has been shown to be an important factor in student satisfaction and success in online courses. This mixed methods study built on previous research to explore in greater depth the nature of social presence and how it develops in online course discussions. The study combined quantitative analyses of survey results from students enrolled in four online graduate courses, and qualitative comparisons of students with the highest and lowest perceptions of social presence. Quantitative results revealed significant correlations between perceived social presence and satisfaction with online discussions, and teased apart the respective influences of the perceived presence of instructors and peers. The findings indicate that the perceived presence of instructors may be a more influential factor in determining student satisfaction than the perceived presence of peers. Correlations with other course and learner characteristics suggest that course design may also significantly affect the development of social presence. Qualitative findings support the quantitative results. In addition, they provide evidence that students perceiving the highest social presence also projected themselves more into online discussions, and reveal meaningful differences in perceptions of the usefulness and purpose of online discussion between students perceiving high and low social presence.

Rourke, L., & Anderson, T. (2002). Using peer teams to lead online discussion. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, (1). Online [Available]:

This study investigated an online course in which groups of four students were used to lead online discussions. The teams were examined for their ability to bring instructional design, discourse facilitation, and direct instruction to the discussions. The setting was a graduate-level communications networks course delivered asynchronously to a cohort group of 17 adults enrolled for professional development education. Interviews, questionnaires, and content analyses of the discussion transcripts indicate that the peer teams fulfilled each of the three roles and valued the experience. Students preferred the peer teams to the instructor as discussion leaders and reported that the discussions were helpful in achieving higher order learning objectives but could have been more challenging and critical.

Rourke, L., & Anderson, T. (2002). Exploring social interaction in computer conferencing. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 13(3), 257-273.

The influence of social communication and context on students’ perceptions of the social climate of a computer conference were assessed using a 32-item questionnaire. Seventy-four students, including 31 graduate, 27 undergraduate, and 16 certificate course students from four faculties responded to the survey. Results indicate that a majority of students found the environment trusting, warm, friendly, disinhibiting, and personal. Less than half of the students found the environment close. ANOVA supported the hypothesis that an increase in the perceived frequency of seven types of social expressions corresponded to more positive ratings of the social climate. The seven social expressions were addressing others by name, complimenting, expressing appreciation, using the reply feature to post messages, expressing emotions, using humor, and salutations. The hypothesis was not supported for the social expressions expressing agreement, referring explicitly to the content of others’ messages, using software features to quote from others’ messages, asking questions of other students, using informal register, use of personal examples, chitchat, and self-disclosure. No significant relationship was found between three categories of contextual variables
(instructional, relational, technological) and the students’ ratings of the social climate or the perceived frequency of the social expressions. Student comments indicated that they value social expression that is embedded in discussions of content, but that purely social messages should be delegated to alternative forums. Moderators
are encouraged to model this pattern of communication. Instructional designers and moderators are encouraged to model and promote the eleven types of social expression that contribute to social presence.

Rourke, L., Anderson, T. Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (1999). Assessing social presence in asynchronous, text-based computer conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(3), 51-70.

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 explicate some 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.