Effects of social motivation for learning and student social presence on engagement and satisfaction in online classes.

Newberry, Brian, Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2003.


Online learning is growing at a tremendous rate, partly because it provides an alternative for people who are not able to participate in traditional learning experiences because of time and space barriers. A significant challenge in online learning is to provide the students with adequate interactions including: learner-content, learner-instructor, and learner-learner interactions. Previous studies have found that interaction during online courses increases student satisfaction.

This study examined learner-learner interaction from the perspective of Social Presence. Ninety-four participants were recruited from online classes including sixteen sections of five education courses, a nursing course, an educational technology course and nine courses in an online pharmacy degree program. An online survey collected data about students' preference for social interaction in educational settings, their sense of Social Presence in their online classes, perceptions of engagement, and level of satisfaction. ANOVA showed no significant difference in the level of social motivation for learning by age, ( F (36,42) = 1.119, p = .804), or gender, ( F (1,42) = .000, p = .995). Social motivation for learning was correlated with Social Presence ( r = .452, p < .001). This study found that Social Presence was related to satisfaction ( r = .337, p = .001), engagement was similarly associated with satisfaction ( r = .564, p < .001).

Two groups emerged, differentiated by opportunities for learner-learner interaction and level of social motivation for learning ( t (88.38) = 2.64, p = .01). The low interaction group, consisting of the students from the online pharmacy program, demonstrated a weaker relationship between Social Presence and satisfaction ( r = .058, p < .685) than the high interaction group ( r = .580, p < .001). The differences found between the two groups suggest that the relationship between Social Presence and satisfaction may be more complex than previously thought. Further research is needed on how Social Presence may affect factors such as student expectations, student-to-instructor interaction, or learning activities. Findings from this research may assist instructional designers in developing online classes that are appropriately tailored for the content, promote effective learning and are satisfying for the students.