Nowadays, online learning has become a popular option for students because of its flexibility and more online programs are customized to students’ needs. Among all the factors that affect students’ online learning experience, social presence is worth much study considering the asynchronous nature of online learning and communication issues between online instructors and students. This paper reviews the origin, major definitions of social presence and research studies throughout history. Authors also document arguments of the optimal amount of social presence and provide instructional design suggestions for the development of online social presence. Further trends for social presence studies are also proposed at the end of the article.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Akyol, Z., Garrison, D. R., & Ozden, M. Y. (2009). Online and blended communities of inquiry: Exploring the developmental and perceptional differences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(6), 65–83.
Andersen, J. F. (1979). Teacher immediacy as a predictor of teaching effectiveness. In D. Nimmo (Ed.), Communication yearbook 3 (pp. 543–559). New Brunswick: Transaction Books.
Aragon, S. (2003). Creating social presence in online environments. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, 100, 57–68. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
Arbaugh, J. B. (2005). Is there an optimal design for on-line MBA courses? The Academy of Management Learning and Education, 4, 135–149.
Arbaugh, J. (2008). Does the community of inquiry framework predict outcomes in online MBA courses? The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 9(2), 9–21.
Arbaugh, J. B., & Benbunan-Fich, R. (2006). An investigation of epistemological and social dimensions of teaching in online learning environments. The Academy of Management Learning and Education, 5, 435–447.
Argyle, M., & Dean, J. (1965). Eye-contact, distance and affiliation. Sociometry, 28(3), 289–304.
Arkoudis, S. (2006). Teaching international students: Strategies to enhance learning. Mebourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education.
Barkhi, R., Jacob, V. S., & Pirkul, H. (1999). An experimental analysis of face to face versus computer mediated communication channels. Group Decision and Negotiation, 8(4), 325–347.
Benbunan-Fich, R., & Hiltz, S. R. (2003). Mediators of the effectiveness of online courses. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 46(4), 298–312.
Berge, Z. L., & Collins, M. (1995). Computer-Mediated communication and the online classroom: Vol. 3. Distance learning. Cresskill: Hampton.
Biocca, F. (1997). The cyborg’s dilemma: Embodiment in virtual environments. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 3(2). Retrieved from http://mindlab.msu.edu/biocca/index_files/Page507.htm
Biocca, F. (1999). The Cyborg’s dilemma: Progressive embodiment in virtual environments. Human Factors in Information Technology, 13(1), 113–144.
Biocca, F., & Harms, C. (2002). Defining and measuring social presence: Contribution to the networked minds theory measure. In F. R. Gouveia & F. Biocca (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th international workshop on presence 2002 (pp. 7–36). Porto: University Fernando Pessoa.
Biocca, F., Burgoon, J., Harms, C., & Stoner, M. (2001). Criteria and scope conditions for a theory and measure of social presence. Paper presented at the Fourth International Workshop on Presence, Philadelphia, USA.
Biocca, F., Harms, C., & Gregg, J. (2001). The networked minds measure of social presence: Pilot test of the factor structure and concurrent validity. Paper presented at the 4th International Workshop on Presence, Philadelphia, PA.
Biocca, F., Harms, C., & Burgoon, J. (2003). Toward a more robust theory and measure of social presence: Review and suggested criteria. Presence: Teleoperators & Virtual Environments, 12(5), 456–480.
Burgoon, J., & Hale, J. L. (1988). Nonverbal expectancy violations: Model elaboration and application to immediacy behaviors. Communication Monographs, 55(1), 58–79.
Burke, K., & Chidambaram, L. (1995). Developmental differences between distributed and face-to-face groups in electronically supported meeting environments: An exploratory investigation. Group Decision and Negotiation, 4(3), 213–233.
Byam, N. (1995). The emergence of community in computer-mediated communication. In S. G. Jones (Ed.), Cybersociety. Newbury Park: Sage.
Carlson, S. (2004). Online-education survey finds unexpectedly high enrollment growth. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 51, 14.
Carr, S. (2000). As distance education comes of age, the challenge is keeping the students. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 46(23), 39–41.
Christophel, D. (1990). The relationship among teacher immediacy behaviors, student motivation, and learning. Communication Education, 39(4), 323–340.
Clark, R. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445–460.
Costa, M., Dinsbach, W., Manstead, A. S. R., & Bitti, P. E. R. (2001). Social presence, embarrassment, and nonverbal behavior. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 25(4), 225–240.
Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1984). A proposed integration among organizational information requirements, media richness and structural design. Management Science, 32(5), 554–571.
Daft, R. L., Lengel, R. H., & Trevino, L. K. (1987). Message equivocality, media selection, and manager performance: Implications for information systems. MIS Quarterly, 11(3), 355–366.
De Bruyn, L. L. (2004). Monitoring online communication: Can the development of convergence and social presence indicate an interactive learning environment? Distance Education, 25(1), 67–81.
Dick, W., & Carey, L. (1996). The systematic design of instruction (4th ed.). New York: Harper Collins.
Driver, M. (2002). Exploring student perceptions of group interaction and class satisfaction in the web-enhanced classroom. The Internet and Higher Education, 5(1), 35–45.
Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 129–136.
Durlak, J. (1987). A typology for interactive media. Communication yearbook, 10, 743–757.
Gagne, R. M., Briggs, L. J., & Wager, W. W. (1992). Principles of instructional design (4th ed.). New York: Harcourt Brace Janovich.
Garrison, D. R. (1997). Computer conferencing: The post-industrial age of distance Education. Open Learning, 12(2), 3–11.
Garrison, D. R. (2003). Cognitive presence for effective asynchronous online learning: The role of reflective inquiry, self-direction and metacognition. In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds.), Elements of quality online education: Practice and direction (pp. 47–58). Needham: The Sloan Consortium.
Garrison, D., & Arbaugh, J. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(3), 157–172.
Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105.
Garton, L., & Wellman, B. (1995). Social impacts of electronic mail in organizations: A review of the research literature. In B. Burleson (Ed.), Communication yearbook 18 (pp. 434–453). Newbury Park: Sage.
Gibbons, F. X., & Wright, R. A. (1981). Motivational biases in causal attributions of arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40(3), 588–600.
Gorham, J. (1988). The relationship between verbal teacher immediacy behaviors and student learning. Communication Education, 37(1), 40–53.
Gorham, J., & Zakahi, W. R. (1990). A comparison of teacher and student perceptions of immediacy and learning: Monitoring process and product. Communication Education, 39(4), 354–368.
Gunawardena, C. N. (1995). Social presence theory and implications for interaction collaborative learning in computer conferences. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2/3), 147–166.
Gunawardena, C. N., & Zittle, F. J. (1997). Social presence as a predictor of satisfaction within a computer mediated conferencing environment. American Journal of Distance Education, 11(3), 8–26.
Gustafson, K. L., & Branch, R. M. (2002). What is instructional design? In R. A. Reiser & J. A. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (pp. 16–25). Saddle River: Merrill/Prentice-Hall.
Hassanein, K., & Head, M. (2006). The impact of infusing social presence in the web interface: An investigation across product types. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 10(2), 31–55.
Hassanein, K., Head, M., & Ju, C. (2009). A cross-cultural comparison of the impact of social presence on website trust, usefulness and enjoyment. International Journal of Electronic Business, 7(6), 625–641.
Hauber, J., Regenbrecht, H., Hills, A., Cockburn, A., & Billinghurst, M. (2005). Social presence in two- and three-dimensional videoconferencing. In M. Slater (Ed.), Proceedings of 8th annual international workshop on presence 2005 (pp. 189–198). London: University College London.
Haugen, S., LaBarre, J., & Melrose, J. (2001). Online course delivery: Issues and challenges. Issues in Information Systems, 2, 127–131.
Hiltz, S. R. (1990). Evaluating the virtual classroom. In L. M. Harasim (Ed.), Online education: Perspectives on a new environment (pp. 133–184). New York: Praeger.
Hiltz, S. R., & Turoff, M. (1993). The network nation: Human communication via computers. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Hwang, A., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2006). Virtual and traditional feedback-seeking behaviors: Underlying competitive attitudes and consequent grade performance. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 4, 1–28.
IJsselsteijn, W., Van Baren, J., & Van Lanen, F. (2003). Staying in touch: Social presence and connectedness through synchronous and asynchronous communication media. In C. Stephanidis & J. Jacko (Eds.), Human-computer interaction: Theory and practice (pp. 924–928). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Jezegou, A. (2010). Community of Inquiry en e-learning: À propos du modèle de Garrison et d'Anderson. (French). Journal of Distance Education, 24(2), 1–18.
Karahanna, E., & Straub, D. W. (1999). The psychological origins of perceived usefulness and ease-of-use. Information Management, 35(4), 237–250.
Kear, K. (2010). Social presence in online learning communities. Paper presented at the Seventh International Conference on Networked Learning, Aalborg, Denmark.
Kearney, P., Plax, T. G., & Wendt-Wasco, N. J. (1985). Teacher immediacy for affective learning in divergent college classes. Communication Quarterly, 33(1), 61–74.
Kehrwald, B. A. (2008). Understanding social presence in text-based online learning environments. Distance Education, 29(1), 89–106.
Keil, M., & Johnson, R. D. (2002). Feedback channels: Using social presence theory to compare voice mail to e-mail. Journal of Information Systems Education, 13(4), 295–302.
Kemp, J., Morrison, G., & Ross, S. (1998). Designing effective instruction (2nd ed.). New York: Merrill.
Kenny, A. (2002). Online learning: Enhancing nurse education? Journal of Advanced Nursing, 38(2), 127–135.
Kim, J., Kwon, Y., & Cho, D. (2011). Investigating factors that influence social presence and learning outcomes in distance higher education. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1512–1520.
King, J., Walpole, C., & Lamon, K. (2007). Surf and turf wars online–growing implications of Internet gang violence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(6), 66–68.
Kirkbride, P., Tang, S., & Westwood, R. (1991). Chinese conflict preferences and negotiating behaviour: Cultural and psychological influences. Organization Studies, 12(3), 365.
Kozma, R. (1991). Learning with media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179–212.
Kraut, R. E., Lewis, S. H., & Swezey, L. W. (1982). Listener responsiveness and the coordination of conversation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43(4), 718.
Lahaie, U. (2007). Strategies for creating social presence online. Nurse Educator, 32(3), 100–101.
Lowenthal, P. R. (2010). The evolution and influence of social presence theory on online learning. In T. T. Kidd (Ed.), Online education and adult learning: New frontiers for teaching practices. Hershey: IGI Global.
Lowenthal, P., & Wilson, B. (2010). Labels do matter! A critique of AECT’s redefinition of the field. TechTrends, 54(1), 38–46.
Luan, W. S., Fung, N. S., Nawawi, M., & Hong, T. S. (2005). Experienced and inexperienced Internet users among preservice teachers: Their use and attitudes toward the Internet. Educational Technology and Society, 8(1), 90–103.
Madden, M. (2006). Internet penetration and impact. Pew Internet & American Life Project Data Memo. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/182/report_display.asp.
McArthur, L. Z., & Solomon, L. K. (1978). Perceptions of an aggressive encounter as a function of the victim’s salience and the perceiver’s arousal. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(11), 1278–1290.
McCroskey, J. C., Sallinen, A., Fayer, J. M., Richmond, V. P., & Barraclough, R. A. (1996). Nonverbal immediacy and cognitive learning: A cross-cultural investigation. Communication Education, 45(3), 200–211.
Meyen, E. L., Aust, R., Gauch, J. M., Hinton, H. S., Isaacson, R. E., Smith, S. J., et al. (2002). E-Learning: A programmatic research construct for the future. Journal of Special Education Technology, 17(3), 37–46.
Millard, M. (2010). Analysis of Interaction in an Asynchronous CMC Environment. In Proceedings of the WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line, April 26-27th, 2010, Raleigh, NC: US.
Neuman, Y., & Bekerman, Z. (2000). Cultural resources and the gap between educational theory and practice. Teachers College Record, 103(3), 471–484.
Newhagen, J. E., & Rafaeli, S. (1996). Why communication researchers should study the Internet: A dialogue. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 1(4). Retrieved from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol1/issue4/rafaeli.html
Oliver, R. (1999). Exploring strategies for online teaching and learning. Distance Education, 20, 240–254.
Oreilly, T. (2007). What is web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Communications & Strategies, 1(1), 17. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abstract=1008839.
Pawan, F., Paulus, T. M., Yalcin, S., & Chang, C. F. (2003). Online learning: Patterns of engagement and interaction among in-service teachers. Language, Learning and Technology, 7(3), 119–140.
Perse, E. I., Burton, P., Kovner, E., Lears, M. E., & Sen, R. J. (1992). Predicting computer-mediated communication in a college class. Communication Research Reports, 9(2), 161–170.
Picciano, A. G. (2002). Beyond student perceptions: Issues of interaction, presence and performance in an online course. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 6(1), 24.
Reio, T. G., & Crim, S. J. (2006). The emergence of social presence as an overlooked factor in asynchronous online learning. Retrieved on January 23, 2007, from ERIC database.
Rettie, R. (2003). Connectedness, awareness, and social presence. Paper presented at the 6th International Presence Workshop, Aalborg, Denmark.
Rice, R. E. (1993). Media appropriateness. Human Communication Research, 19(4), 451–484.
Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 68–88.
Riva, G., & Galimberti, C. (1998). Computer-mediated communication: Identity and social interaction in an electronic environment. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 124(4), 434–463.
Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing social presence in asynchronous, text-based computer conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(3), 51–70.
Rovai, A. P. (2002). Development of an instrument to measure classroom community. The Internet and Higher Education, 5(3), 197–211.
Russo, T., & Benson, S. (2005). Learning with invisible others: Perceptions of online presence and their relationship to cognitive and affective learning. Educational Technology and Society, 8(1), 54–62.
Sallnas, E. L. (2005). Effects of communication mode on social presence, virtual presence, and performance in collaborative virtual environments. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 14(4), 434–449.
Shea, P., Pickett, A., & Pelz, W. (2003). A follow-up investigation of “teaching presence” in the SUNY Learning Network. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(2), 61–80.
Shin, N. (2002). Beyond interaction: The relational construct of transactional presence. Open Learning, 17(2), 121–137.
Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. London: Wiley.
Smith, A. L. (2011). IPhone application creation and development. Retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?iPhone-Application-Creation-And-Development&id=5862911
Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (1998). Instructional design (2nd ed.). New York: Merrill.
So, H. J., & Brush, T. A. (2008). Student perceptions of collaborative learning, social presence and satisfaction in a blended learning environment: Relationships and critical factors. Computers in Education, 51(1), 318–336.
Spizzica, M. (1997). Cultural differences within “Western” and “Eastern” education. In Z. Golebiowski & H. Borland (Eds.), Academic communication across disciplines and cultures (pp. 248–257). Melbourne: Victoria University of Technology.
Stacey, E. (2002). Social presence online: Networking learners at a distance. Education and Information Technologies, 7(4), 287–294.
Straub, D. W. (1994). The effect of culture on IT diffusion: E-mail and fax in Japan and the U.S. Information Systems Research, 5(1), 23–47.
Swan, K. (2002). Building communities in online courses: The importance of interaction. Education, Communication and Information, 2(1), 23–49.
Swan, K. (2003). Developing social presence in online course discussions. In S. Naidu (Ed.), Learning and teaching with technology: Principles and practices (pp. 147–164). London: Kogan Page.
Swan, K., & Shih, L. (2005). On the nature and development of social presence in online course discussions. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 9(3), 115–136.
Swan, K., Richardson, J. C., Ice, P., Garrison, D. R., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2008). Validating a measurement tool of presence in online communities of inquiry. E-mentor, 2(24). Retrieved from http://www.ementor.edu.pl/e_index.php?numer=24&all=1
Tammelin, M. (1998). From telepresence to social presence: The role of presence in a network-based learning environment. In S. Tella (Ed.), Aspects of media education: Strategic imperatives in the information age (pp. 219–231). Helsinki: University of Helsinki.
Tu, C. H. (2000a). An examination of social presence to increase interaction in online class (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 731797221).
Tu, C. (2000b). On-line learning migration: From social learning theory to social presence theory in CMC environment. Journal of Network and Computer Applications, 23(1), 27–37.
Tu, C. (2001). How Chinese perceive social presence: An examination of interaction in online learning environment. Educational Media International, 38(1), 45–60.
Tu, C. (2002). The measurement of social presence in an online learning environment. International Journal on E-Learning, 1(2), 34–45.
Tu, C., & McIsaac, M. (2002). The relationship of social presence and interaction in online classes. American Journal of Distance Education, 16(3), 131–150.
Vrasidas, C., & McIsaac, M. S. (2000). Principles of pedagogy and evaluation for Web-based learning. Educational Media International, 37(2), 105–111.
Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language (A. Kozulin, trans.). Cambridge: MIT.
Walther, J. (1992). Interpersonal effects in computer-mediated interaction: A relational perspective. Communication Research, 19(1), 52–90.
Walther, J. (1994). Interpersonal effects in computer mediated interaction. Communication Research, 21(4), 460–487.
Walther, J. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23(1), 3–43.
Walther, J., & Burgoon, J. (1992). Relational communication in computer-mediated interaction. Human Communication Research, 19(1), 50–88.
Warkentin, M., Sayeed, L., & Hightower, R. (1997). Virtual teams versus face-to-face teams. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Wiener, M., & Mehrabian, A. (1968). Language within language: Immediacy, a channel in verbal communication. New York: Appleton.
Williams, E. A., Duray, R., & Reddy, V. (2006). Teamwork orientation, group cohesiveness, and student learning: A study of the use of teams in online distance education. Journal of Management Education, 30, 592–616.
Wise, A., Chang, J., Duffy, T., & Del Valle, R. (2004). The effects of teacher social presence on student satisfaction, engagement, and learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 31(3), 247–271.
Yoo, Y., & Alavi, M. (2001). Media and group cohesion: Relative influences on social presence, task participation and group consensus. MIS Quarterly, 25(3), 371–390.
Yoo, Y., Kanawattanachai, P., & Citurs, A. (2002). Forging into the wired wilderness: A case study of a technology-mediated distributed discussionbased class. Journal of Management Education, 26, 139–163.
About this article
Cite this article
Cui, G., Lockee, B. & Meng, C. Building modern online social presence: A review of social presence theory and its instructional design implications for future trends. Educ Inf Technol 18, 661–685 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-012-9192-1
- Online learning
- Social presence
- Instructional design