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Social Presence: Creating On-Line Learning Communities that Empower Student Learning

Lauren Cummins (Youngstown State University, USA)
Session Information
November 21, 2013 - 11:30am
Learning Effectiveness
Areas of Special Interest: 
None of the above
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Oceanic 1
Session Duration: 
35 Minutes
Information Session 8

This presentation focuses on the critical importance of building learning communities within distance education courses to engage learners in meaningful experiences that promote effective learning.

Extended Abstract

Presentation Description
"Throughout the history of human communication, advances in technology have powered paradigmatic shifts in education (Frick, 1991)... For communication to take place, at a bare minimum, there must be a sender, a receiver, and a message. If this message is intended as an instruction, then besides student, teacher, and content, we must consider the environment (Berg & Collins, 1995). Nasseh,B. (1997). Ball State University, Adult Education in the News.

A paradigm shift has been happening in higher education for the past twenty-plus years. Countless faculty and instructional designers have gathered around a computer to design and provide learning experiences through learning management systems (LMS) and countless students have gathered around a computer to journey through these experiences to learn information through a variety of distance education courses. However, not all distance-learning courses are "created equal." Expertise in content does not guarantee expertise in helping others learn the content. Understanding effective pedagogy is critical for the design of a course, since delivering information (teacher-centered) is not the same as how students will learn the information (student-centered). Effective pedagogy linked to an online environment that builds social presence is essential.

This presentation focuses on the critical importance of building learning communities within distance education courses to engage learners in meaningful experiences that promote effective learning. It begins by discussing a graduate, survey used to identify candidates' wants and needs related to distance education. The results from this survey were analyzed and used to design early childhood education, distance education graduate courses. One of the most prominent needs identified by the candidates from this survey was the need for an online learning community, where students could share their learning experiences with others in the course.

This presentation will;

  • demonstrate the 2.0 technology used to build a learning community,
  • discuss the data linking learning outcomes with this 2.0 technology,
  • share the results from a course satisfaction survey, which can be linked to course retention.

Opportunities for dialogue during the session are provided, as well as a question and answer period at the end. The presentation will utilize Prezi.

After this presentation participates will be able to:
1. identify 2.0 technologies that support social presence and engage learners;
2. understand the importance of a learning community in distance education;
3. understand the link between social presence, learning communities and
positive learning outcomes.

Allen, J.E., & Seaman, J. (2010). Learning on demand: Online education in the
United States, Needham, MA. The Sloan Consortium.

Arbaugh, J.B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S.R., Garrison, R., Ice, P., Richardson, J.C., & Swan, K.P. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the community of inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. The Internet and Higher Education, 11(3-4), 133-136.

Berg Z. & Collins, M. (1995). Computer-mediated: Communication and the online
classroom in distance education. Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine, (2)4, 6.

Bork, A. (1995). Distance learning and interaction: Toward a virtual learning institution. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 4(3), 227-244.

Burg, L. (2008). Crafting the future: Pioneer lessons and concerns for today.
Distance Education,1, 5-17.

DiRamio, D. & Wolverton, M. (July 2006). Integrating learning communities and
distance education: Possibility or pipedream? Innovative Higher Education, (31)2, 99-113

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Frick, T. W. (1991). Restructuring Education Through Technology. Phi Delta
Kappa Educational Foundation: Bloomington, Indiana

Leong, P. (2011). Role of social presence and cognitive absorption in online learning environments. Distance Education, 32(1), 5-28.

Liu, O.L. (2011). Student evaluation of instruction: In the new paradigm of distance education. Res High Education, 53, 471-486.

Moore, M. G. (1990). Background and overview of contemporary American
Distance education. In M. Moore (Ed.), Contemporary issues in American Distance Education. Pergamon, New York, 12-26.

Nasseh, B. (1997). A brief history of distance education. Adult Education in the
News. Retrieved December 5, 2012, from

Price, D.V. (2005). Learning communities and student success in postsecondary
education. MDRC, 1-24.

Richardson, J. C. & Swan K. (Sept. 2003). Examining social presence in online
courses in relation to students' perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 68-88.

Shattuck, K. (2007). Quality matters: Collaborative planning on a state level.
Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, (X)III, University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center. Retrieved, December 8, 2012, from

Smith, B. L., MacGregor, J., Matthews, R., & Gabelnick, F. (2004). Learning
Communities: Reforming Undergraduate Education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sung E. & Mayer R. (Sept. 2012). Five facets of social presence in online
distance education. Computers in Human Behavior, (28)5, 1738-1747.

Watts, M.M. (2003). Taking the distance out of education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 94, 97-103.

Lead Presenter

Lauren Cummins is an Associate Professor in Early Childhood Education in the Department of Teacher Education at Youngstown State University. She is coordinator for both the undergraduate and graduate program in early childhood education and is coordinating the development of a distance education program for advanced early childhood education teachers. She has published articles on mentoring teacher candidates, professional learning communities for faculty and digital storytelling to enhance literacy development. Her current research is in the area of developing professional dispositions in teacher candidates and effective distance education programs for advanced teachers.