Social presence and learner support: understanding learners' experiences with mediated social processes in text-based online learning environments

PhD Thesis


Kehrwald, Benjamin. 2007. Social presence and learner support: understanding learners' experiences with mediated social processes in text-based online learning environments. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

Social presence and learner support: understanding learners' experiences with mediated social processes in text-based online learning environments

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorKehrwald, Benjamin
SupervisorPostle, Glen
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages228
Year2007
Abstract

This study focuses on the nature, role and function of online social presence in text-based online learning environments and how it relates to learner support. Ultimately, the study seeks to understand the relationships between the nature, role and function of social presence, the social learning processes employed in contemporary online learning environments and the mechanisms which support learning in these environments. This study is guided by the question: In what ways might social presence enhance the provision of learner support in text-based online learning environments? Of particular interest in this study is information related to (a) how participants in online courses experience social presence; (b) how learners in online courses perceive and/or experience learner support in online courses and (c) how these experiences affect learner activity in online learning environments.

The research design employs a collective case study approach which focuses on learners in four separate online courses within a single university context to inform understanding of the phenomena in question. Using a combination of interview-like techniques, the study seeks to ground the understanding of social presence, mediated social processes (i.e., interpersonal interaction, collaboration and community development) and learner support in the experiences of online learners.

The results suggest a number of important findings with regard to social presence and learner support. First is an understanding of social presence as a quality of individual actors in the online environments. Social presence exists as a response to the limits of the technology and media in text-based online learning environments. Next, the study identifies social presence an essential component of online learning environments because it facilitates and supports mediated social processes including interpersonal interaction (or transaction), the development of relations between individuals and amongst groups of individuals, the progressive development of productive collaboration and the establishment and growth of community. Finally, the study highlights a revised model for learner support in text-based online learning environments which is informed by the development of learning communities and understanding of mediated social processes.

Keywordsonline social presence; text-based online learning environments; online learning environments
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390203. Sociology of education
390405. Educational technology and computing
461010. Social and community informatics
Byline AffiliationsMassey University, New Zealand
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