Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Hunt, Rebecca D.

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment


Educational technology


Social presence in online learning has become significant in discussion in higher education. The current study was designed to reveal more fully the student perception of social presence within an online cohort. The research described in the current paper was a phenomenological study designed to examine the experiences of seven students who had graduated with master's degrees from an online cohort program. Specifically, the research examined students' perception of social presence through the lens of the Community Inquiry model, along with social cognitive theory, to determine the factors that might influence the levels of social presence in an online cohort. Analysis included an examination of whether or not students' perceptions of social presence changed throughout students' matriculation through the cohort program. Participants were recruited and interviewed for the study. Findings indicate a variety of factors that influenced students' perceptions of social presence in an online cohort. Some influences are cohort design, the formation and maintenance of relationships, and self-motivation. Future research can build on the findings to determine the impact of family dynamics or educational groups on social presence in an online learning environment. In addition, professors should strongly advocate that students rotate in groups instead of matriculating with the same group in a cohort program. Additionally, more research is needed to understand the relationship of social presence in online learning to the two new elements of the Community of Inquiry model: learning presence and emotional presence.


Advisors: Rebecca D. Hunt.||Committee members: Patrick Lowenthal; Ying Xie.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


viii, 162 pages




Northern Illinois University

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