Understanding Social Presence In Text-based Online Learning Environments | Happy Student Education ™

Understanding social presence in text-based online learning environments

Article Category Principals | Schools | Students | Teachers | Technology
Published May 3, 2021


Understanding social presence in remote teaching and learning

Distance Education is broken into several stages. This further links the inline educational system with the current social presence theory, as explained by Kehrwald, Benjamin. Computer-mediated communication technologies have become the pinnacle of online education since the 2020 pandemic.

Online education has been influenced and arguably founded on the basis of computer-based technologies. The ultimate result may not seem as clear as we may consider. Understanding social presence in text-based online learning environments analyses all the factors differentiated from in-person to online education.

Social presence in text-based online learning

Key findings link text-based environments with the nature of social presence as experienced by the online education community.

However, research focuses on the current theoretical framework rather than influencing findings from preexisting findings. Thus, “… the literature review is used to provide a background to the study focusing on the context of contemporary online learning and the historical development of social presence theory (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 1)”.

Distance Education

Remote Teaching and Learning

The concept of online education much like in-person education interconnects directly with educational philosophical theories and concepts [DD7]. Understanding social presence in text-based online learning environments it is important to consider the impact of lack of social interaction in online education.

Distance Education is broken into several stages that further link the inline educational system with the current social presence theory, as explained by Kehrwald, Benjamin (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 1).

Remote Teaching and Learning
Remote Teaching and Learning

Authors/researchers generally developed a theory on the understanding of the social presence in online education based solely on current analysis while omitting past theories, data, and analysis.

In relation to online education, relevancy stays at its pinnacle considering accredited online education and its social presence in the text-based online environments are relatively recent, relatively a decade or so (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 8).

The social role of online learning extends beyond the pursuit of knowledge and has a very strong social role in the online classroom.

Additionally, much like schools weekly participation forums, online education requires a classroom “Interactivist” [DD11] that results in growth and development”. For instance, “….interpersonal interaction is a key feature of contemporary online learning. The mutual modification of attitudes, ideas, skills, beliefs, and knowledge that results from these exchanges has been described as interactive” (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 2)”.

The idea that online education requires much more than the traditional method of teaching, is both expected and required. To maintain educational growth, as well as to remove the “distance education” feel of it. (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 10)

The social presence of online communication has gradually become difficult to define. However, social presence may be defined as “the degree of salience of the other person in a mediated interaction and the consequent salience of the interpersonal interaction (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 2)”. In contrast, comparing online media communication with traditional face-to-face interaction is far different and less interactive.

distance education
Distance education

As technology grows and develops the social presence has greatly shifted (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 2). Therefore, “Among the notable implications of this shift to relational views of social presence is that relational aspects of communication are dependent upon the participants in the communicative exchange rather than (or in addition to) the medium (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 2)”.

Therefore, much like the Apus classroom, the focus is not placed on the online classroom but rather on the pursuit of knowledge, so much so that the sense of community makes it feel as if the interaction was taking place face to face.

Lack of understanding in the social process related to technology-mediated communication and education presents a problem It is clear that not everyone is on board with online higher education, yet, “online learners continue to have success with mediated social processes, including participating in highly interactive online courses, engaging in productive collaboration, and being members in online learning communities (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 5)“.

Therefore, it is up to successful online students and professionals to highlight the social and legitimacy presence of the social influence in the system. (Haynie, 2013).

From a philosophical perspective, online students should aby [DD17.] The Axiology philosophical theory. For instance, Axiology focuses on values and “What is right, good, just, and beautiful has been so at every time and in every place (Gutek p. 33).” Students that exemplify Axiology are students that have solid values and do what is right even when it is not easy.

The theory of value (Axiology) argues that good values such as; goodness and beauty are essential. For example, in relation to online education, students that would not cheat based on their personal beliefs even when the opportunity has presented itself would epitomize the theory of values (Axiology).

Therefore, considering online social communication, based on Axiology, and Turnitin, students with strong values work hard to succeed much like in traditional colleges.

The theory of value (Axiology)

Ultimately, there is a need to further develop the social presence in the online educational process.

Whilst the term social presence was originally used to describe the qualities of media and their respective abilities to create the illusion of non-mediation, users of virtual learning environments have appropriated the term to describe the combination of skills and abilities which allow them to achieve salient interpersonal interactions (Kehrwald, 2008, p. 13.

In addition, with the further development in CMC tools, the social process will become less evident and more of an illusion that plays a role in the development of online education and communication.

Thus, online education may grow and become more of a “face to face” classroom interaction in the educational sense and technological sense”. This will result in a hybrid classroom that will be difficult to differentiate between in-person, and online education.


Haynie, D. (2013, 10 13). How to Tell if an Online Program Is Accredited. Retrieved from US NEWS: http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2013/10/16/how-to-tell-if-an-online-program-is-accredited?int=9f6e08 accessed 04/26/2015
Kehrwald, B. (2008). Distance Education. Understanding social presence in text-based online environments, 18.
Gutek, G. L. (2014). Philosophical, ideological and theoretical perspectives on education (2nd ed.). Chicago: Pearson Education.

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