Introducing the Social Presence Model to Explore Online and Blended Learning Experiences

Aimee L. Whiteside


This study explores the level of social presence or connectedness, in two iterations of a 13-month, graduate-level certificate program designed to help K-12 school leaders integrate technology in their districts. Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory serves as the theoretical lens for this programmatic research. The methods include a case study approach for coding discussions for 16 online courses using the pre-established Social Presence coding scheme as well as conducting instructor and student interviews and collecting observation notes on over a dozen face-to-face courses. The results of this study suggest the need for further research and development on the Social Presence coding scheme. Additionally, this study unveiled the Social Presence Model, a working model that suggests social presence consists of the following five integrated elements: Affective Association, Community Cohesion, Instructor Involvement, Interaction Intensity, and Knowledge and Experience. Finally, this study also highlighted the importance of multiple data sources for researchers, the need for researchers to request access to participant data outside the formal learning environment, and the inherently unique challenges instructors face with multimodal literacy and social presence in blended learning programs.


social presence, blended learning, online learning, hybrid learning, programmatic research, learning communities, cohorts, case study, certificate programs, low-residency programs, discourse analysis, Vygotsky, social development theory

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