Virtual High School Teacher and Student Reactions to the Social Presence Model

Amy Garrett Dikkers
University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Aimee L. Whiteside
University of Tampa

Somer Lewis
University of North Carolina Wilmington


Using the Social Presence Model (SPM), the authors explore the teacher and student experience at the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS), the largest public online secondary school where teachers design and develop the curriculum. Through a series of surveys, focus groups, and interviews, this two-year mixed methods study investigates the concept of social presence through the SPM. The overall findings suggest that teachers value all five elements of the SPM and see it as an important new heuristic for achieving increased student satisfaction and outcomes. Students largely did not find the Model useful, except for the Instructor Involvement element. Furthermore, because of their online learning experiences, students noted an increased investment in their own learning. Further analysis suggests the importance of integrating connectedness and social presence into student orientations and teacher professional development opportunities. Overall, social presence serves as learning a new language—a new literacy—that is essential to a successful online teaching and learning experience.

About the Author(s)...

Amy Garrett Dikkers is Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with research interests in quality online learning, technology as an agent of change in teaching, and the scholarship of teaching and learning with technology. She teaches technology leadership and curriculum and instruction courses. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Aimee L. Whiteside is an Assistant Professor in the English and Writing Department at the University of Tampa with research interests in social presence, blended and online learning, learning environments, technical writing, academic writing, assessment, and the first-year experience. She teaches courses in technical writing, information design, and academic writing.

Somer Lewis is Teacher-in-Residence in the Watson College of Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington with research interests in the preparation and retention of teachers and online learning. She works with teachers in all stages of their career, co-teaches English Methods, and supervises secondary interns.

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