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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Relationship Between Social Presence and Sense Of Community In Doctoral Online Courses
by Craft, Nina, Ph.D., Fielding Graduate University, 2015, 117; 3736292
Abstract (Summary)

Online courses can be a source of isolation for both students and instructors. Social presence as a human connection in the online learning environment has been researched, yet the findings have not been easily implemented to support a sense of community. This study examined doctoral students’ perception of social presence and results indicated that it correlates to their sense of community in online courses (r = .82, p <.01). The participants were primarily female doctoral students over the age of 40. Responses to the open-ended questions provided support for the various social presence definitions identified by researchers. Additional level of analysis included thematic review. Themes of satisfaction, frustration, and peers mattered were evaluated by raters with confirmed inter-rater reliability. Participant responses were found to express the theme of satisfaction over 50% of the time when perception of community was present in the course. They expressed almost 80% of the time that their peers’ sharing of knowledge mattered. Although textual analysis word count did not support the importance of the facilitator or instructor, content evaluation of participant responses indicated there was value of instructor course design allowing peer-to-peer discussion, learning, and emotional support. This study confirms that instructor facilitation of social presence is essential for students to experience their own social presence and sense of community in an online course. The results of this study can be used to help guide instructors intending to use collaborative constructivism design techniques to improve student engagement and retention in doctoral online courses.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dill-Shackleford, Karen E.
Commitee: Dill-Shackleford, Karen E., Ohler, Jason, Palloff, Rena M., Swan, Karen
School: Fielding Graduate University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 77/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Instructional Design, Educational psychology, Higher education
Keywords: Collaborative constructivism, Female doctoral students, Online learning community, Sense of community, Social presence
Publication Number: 3736292
ISBN: 978-1-339-25181-3
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