Internet Relationships: Building Learning Communities through Friendship

Dawn Bikowski
Ohio University


The experiences of students in an online learning community were explored in this qualitative case study using social presence theory as an interpretive lens. Participants included five undergraduate students in a certificate program at a large Midwestern university. Students who felt a sense of community online most highly valued the friendship they felt with their online teammates. Three main components were key in the development of friendship: individual learner factors, sharing, and support. All students found face-to-face contact to be essential, as it deepened their relationships considerably. Suggestions for how faculty can encourage the building of friendships online are given. Further research is recommended into the role students’ personalities and face-to-face contact play in building an online community.

About the Author(s)...

Dawn Bikowski is the Director of the ESL Writing Program in the Linguistics Department at Ohio University. Her research interests focus on technology in education, specifically understanding students’ experiences in online learning communities and also academic honesty in online learning environments. She received her MA in Linguistics and is currently a doctoral candidate in Educational Studies, Instructional Technology, at Ohio University. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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