Perceived social presence in Thai and American Web-enhanced courses.

Phongsatha, Thanawan, Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2007.

Abstract


Web-enhanced college courses that integrate e-mail, web sites, teleconferencing and other technologies with traditional face-to-face communications are becoming more prevalent worldwide. Researchers have noted that there is a significant challenge in replicating the rich interaction of face-to-face communications in the electronic communications of web-enhanced courses.

Previous research indicates that sex, locus of control and nationality can influence acceptance and use of educational technology. This study compared the level of perceived social presence and course satisfaction in face-to-face and e-mail communications of web-enhanced courses. The research considered three factors that influence the quality of communication: sex, locus of control (internal and external), and nationality (Thai and American).

Participants included 69 Thai and 98 American undergraduate students (167 total). An online questionnaire measured the participant's perceptions of social presence in face-to-face and electronic communications. A separate survey measured course satisfaction. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed significant sex difference in face-to-face communications on perceived social presence, F (1,165) = 6.879, p = .010) with females perceiving higher levels of social presence ( M = 4.1) than males ( M = 3.9). The study did not reveal significant differences for hypotheses related to nationality and locus of control.

Results indicate that the communication channels in web-enhanced courses are critical to female students' interaction and perceived levels of social presence.

As e-Learning pedagogy and technologies mature, investigators should seek to understand factors in face-to-face communications that are critical in increasing perceived levels of social presence. These findings will help guide the development of improved strategies for enriching electronic communications in web-enhanced courses. The electronic communication investigated in this study was primarily e-mail. Future research may consider how the use of other electronic media, such as synchronous teleconferencing or instant messenger, can improve communications in web-enhanced courses.