Promoting Socialization In Distance Education

Shelia Y. TUCKER

Learners enjoy the convenience of being able to take online courses, yet many reports missing the face-to-face contact with their peers. This researcher has sought to tap into the vision of Ferratt & Hall (2009) whereby educators and technology designers are encouraged to extend the vision of online learning to “virtually being there and beyond.” Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine innovative synchronous technology and pedagogy as a means of promoting social presence in online learning. The inquiry was quantitative in nature. Through adapting Garrison and colleagues’ community of inquiry framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer 2000) it was noted that students perceived the use of synchronous Centra technology to be beneficial in promoting a sense of social presence in online learning. Through one-on-one conversations within Centra, it was discovered that the use of this technology also had a positive effect on student retention. There was a correlation between learners’ perception that the instructor promoted an atmosphere of online community and there being a sense of social presence. There was evidence of satisfaction with instructor as evidenced by high student evaluation ratings. Instructor ratings were above the department mean and the university mean.

KEYWORDS: Social presence, Centra, online learning, emerging technology, The Concept of Social Presence in Distance Education