Social Presence and Online Learning: A Current View from a Research Perspective

Susan Copley Cobb
Thomas Edison State College


While the development of online education has been progressing rapidly, further research is needed on the experiences of students in online courses. One concept that has been explored in relation to the quality of the online learning experience is social presence, the degree to which a person is perceived as “real” in mediated communication. The purpose of this article is to discuss the findings regarding the Social Presence and Satisfaction instruments (Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997) used in a recent research study focusing on online learning. Background literature regarding social presence and existing studies of this construct in relation to online learning are analyzed. Descriptive statistics for the Social Presence Scale and Satisfaction Scale are presented and show that students in online courses feel comfortable relating and interacting in the online environment, and are satisfied with online courses. Findings support the continued reliability and validity of these scales and encourage further use of these scales in educational research.

About the Author(s)...

Susan Copley Cobb is the Program Advisor for the School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State College. In this role Dr. Cobb provides academic advising for undergraduate and graduate students in the nursing programs and manages special projects for the School of Nursing. Dr. Cobb has extensive experience in healthcare, continuing education and academia. Her research interest focuses on the experiences of students with online education and factors that affect quality outcomes of online learning. She may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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