Dunlap, J.C., & Lowenthal, P.R. (in press). The power of presence: Our quest for the right mix of social presence in online courses. In A.P. Mizell & A. A. Piña (Eds.) Real life distance education: Case studies in practice. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
Social presence theory explains how people present themselves as “real” through a communication medium and is a popular construct used to describe how people socially interact in online courses. Because of its intuitive appeal, educators—including ourselves—have experimented with different ways to establish social presence in their online courses. Over the years we’ve tried many strategies—from rich threaded discussions to personal one-on-one emails to digital stories to using social networking tools like Twitter. Over time, we began questioning how students perceive all of the strategies we use (in other words, what strategies were leading to the most bang for our buck). This case study shares the story of our quest for the social presence grail—from the strategies we use in our courses, to our research on students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of these strategies.
Keywords: Social Presence, Presence, Teaching Presence, Instructor Social Presence, Teacher Presence, Instructional Strategies, Online Learning