Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name


Publication Date


Granting Institution

California Institute of Integral Studies


As online education continues to grow as a method to deliver education at the college and university level, research on online education has shifted from studying the technology and its ability to deliver course content to trying to better understand what encourages a positive online experience for instructors and students.

The marked difference between a virtual classroom as opposed to a physical one has shifted technology-focused research to research that inquires about the vitality of the social environment in virtual venues. It is conceived that social presence is what makes the virtual experience feel real and sustains student’s attention and engagement and thus informs students’ satisfaction with a course.

This inquiry argues that this shift of focus to social presence should play a role in the development of online courses and most importantly that students and instructors should play a role in determining what types of processes might be implemented to lead to social presence. In other words, whereas educators more often than not, take for granted the virtues of the physical classroom, they v arguably must be conscious of designing the virtual environment to encourage social presence, the feeling of really being there with others.


Copyright © 2018 by Brad E. Van Alstyne