Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Hung, Wei-Chen

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment


Internet in education; Computer-assisted instruction; Education; Higher--Effect of technological innovations on; College students--Attitudes


Online learning has become one of the primary formats for course delivery in higher education. As online learning continues to evolve, more research is needed on social presence's contribution to student satisfaction and retention. The purpose of this study was to determine if the element of social presence in online learning has an impact on student satisfaction and retention. The research was also used to support and frame further research on measuring social presence, its relationship with learner satisfaction, and ways to create a more comfortable learning environment and retain learners in online courses. The quantitative and qualitative methods in this study on social presence included collecting data from students and faculty at a consortium of community colleges in Chicago. A survey was deployed to students enrolled in online courses. The survey included questions about students' comfort level with online courses, including online discussions and other technology. The data from the survey were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The qualitative data were collected during an interview with online faculty members. The interview data were coded, and categories were created using key words from the responses. The data collected from the student survey and the faculty interview helped determine the correlation between social presence and student satisfaction in online learning. The findings indicated that students, for the most part, were satisfied with their online learning experience. Most of the students responded favorably when asked about their comfort level with online discussions, collaboration with other students, and the technology. In the interview, the faculty members noted that although online discussion was one form of connectivity, it was not enough to keep the students engaged. Faculty members recommended that, in addition to online discussions, the inclusion of online groups and synchronous sessions could increase social presence. The data from both the student survey and the faculty interview helped provide recommendations for enhancing the online learning experience.


Advisors: Wei-Chen Hung.||Committee members: Rebecca Butler; Pi-Sui Hsu.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


xiii, 177 pages




Northern Illinois University

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