Community matters: Social presence and learning outcomes

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Carol Hostetter
Monique Busch


The study examines the relationship between social presence and students’ learning outcomes. An emerging body of research connects social presence with learning outcomes in online coursework. Social presence is the “degree to which a person is perceived as a ‘real person’ in mediated communication” (Gunwardena & Zittle, 1997, p.9). The study of 121 student participants addresses the following questions: What is the evidence of social presence in students’ communication in an online discussion forum and in an attitudinal survey? 2) What pedagogical methods affect students’ perceptions of social presence? and 3) What is the relationship between social presence and students’ learning outcomes?  The regression model revealed that students with higher demonstrations of social presence in discussion forum posts had statistically significantly higher ratings on the CAT. This seems to indicate that social presence influences student outcomes on written assignments.


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Hostetter, C., & Busch, M. (2013). Community matters: Social presence and learning outcomes. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 13(1), 77–86. Retrieved from


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