Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Education

Committee Chair

Reio, Thomas George, Jr.

Author's Keywords

Social presence; Online; Learning; Distance education; Persistence; Retention


Education--Data processing--Social aspects; Computer-assisted instruction--Social aspects; Computer managed instruction--Social aspects


The distance education literature is lacking studies investigating the construct of social presence, the value placed on it by online learners, and whether its existence in text-based environments is necessary for learning, satisfaction, and contributing to course retention. The purpose of this study was to explore learner perceptions and experiences of the learning process within the Web-based online learning medium in terms of social presence. More specifically, it examines the relationship among learners' perceptions of social presence in asynchronous online courses and how it relates to satisfaction with learning, whether course activities perceived as having high levels of social presence also have high levels of satisfaction and quality of learning, and whether perceptions of social presence and satisfaction with learning affects their likelihood of enrolling in future online courses. The research design of this study utilized an online survey administered to 280 students enrolled in online courses of nine disciplines; both undergraduate- and graduate- level at a large urban university. Open-ended questions from the online survey were examined as well to help inform and support the findings from the quantitative data. Data were analyzed using correlations, ANOVAs, and hierarchical regression analysis. The findings demonstrated that students' perceived social presence was statistically, significantly, and positively related to their overall perceived satisfaction with learning in online courses. Furthermore, students' perceived social presence was statistically, significantly, and positively related to their perception of quality of and satisfaction with learning for each of the five course activities examined in this study. The hierarchical regression analysis suggested that perceived social presence contributed substantially more incremental variance to the decision to enroll again in an online course than the satisfaction with learning variable. Overall, the theoretical model including social presence and satisfaction with learning explained 18 percent of the variance in the dependent variable. The potential implications for theory and practice for online course designers and instructors are provided.