Measuring perceived social presen...
Measuring perceived social presence in distributed learning groups Karel Kreijns & Paul A. Kirschner & Wim Jochems & Hans van Buuren Published online: 3 July 2010 # Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010 Keywords Social presence . Social presence scale . Sociability . Social affordances Educ Inf Technol (2011) 16:365���381 DOI 10.1007/s10639-010-9135-7 K. Kreijns (*) Open Universiteit Nederland, Ruud de Moor Center for Teacher Professionalization, P.O. Box 2960, 6401 DL Heerlen, The Netherlands e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org P. A. Kirschner Open Universiteit Nederland, Center for Learning Sciences and Technologies, P.O. Box 2960, 6401 DL Heerlen, The Netherlands H. van Buuren Open Universiteit Nederland, School of Psychology, P.O. Box 2960, 6401 DL Heerlen, The Netherlands K. Kreijns Fontys University of Applied Sciences, P.O. Box 347, 5600 AH Eindhoven, The Netherlands W. Jochems Eindhoven School of Education, P.O. Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands Abstract Social presence���the degree to which ���the other��� in a communication appears to be a ���real��� person���has captured the attention of those dealing with learning in groups through computer-supported collaborative learning environments. The concept is important because it affects participation and social interaction, both necessary for effective collaboration and knowledge construction. This article reports on the construction and validation of a self-reporting (Dutch-language) Social Presence Scale to determine perceived social presence in distributed learning groups using computer- supported collaborative learning environments. The result is a one-dimensional scale consisting of five items with an internal consistency of .81. We used a nomological network of similar constructs for further validation. The findings suggest that the Social Presence Scale has potential to be useful as a measure for social presence.
1 Introduction In synchronous and asynchronous learning groups social presence (Short et al. 1976) is an important determinant for both participation (Koh et al. 2007 Shen et al. 2006 Stacey 2000) and social interaction (Cobb 2009 Garrison 1997a,b Garrison and Anderson 2003 Lowenthal 2010 Stacey 2002 Swan 2002 Tu and McIsaac 2002). Inspired by telepresence research (Lombard and Ditton 1997) we define social presence as the degree of illusion that others appear to be a ���real��� physical persons in either an immediate (i.e., real time/synchronous) or a delayed (i.e., time-deferred/ asynchronous) communication episode. If ���social presence is low, the foundation of social learning, social interaction, does not occur��� (Tu 2000a, p. 30 cf., Garramone et al. 1986). Tu (2000a), linking social learning theory to social presence, took this a step further when he asserted that social presence ���is required to enhance and foster online social interaction, which is the major vehicle of social learning��� (p. 27). And, since social presence is so important for maintaining a high degree of online social interaction, it ���is a significant predictor of course retention and final grade in the community college online environment��� (Liu et al. 2009, p. 165). Social interaction has long been seen as a prerequisite for collaborative learning and knowledge construction (Hiltz 1994 Kearsley 1995 Slavin 1995). Garrison (1993) suggested that it promotes explanation and helps develop critical perspectives on a problem, leading to true meaning. Soller et al. (1999) saw it as instrumental in making peer interaction more effective since students ���learning effectively in groups encourage each other to ask questions, explain and justify their opinions, articulate their reasoning, and elaborate and reflect upon their knowledge��� (p. 116). Johnson et al. (1985) emphasized that ���the cognitive processes most necessary for deeper level understand- ing and the implanting of information into memory, such as elaboration and metacognition, occur only through dialogue and interaction with other people��� (p. 675). In addition, social interaction is also important for socio-emotional and social processes related to group formation and group dynamics affecting affiliation, impression formation, developing affective relationships, and building social cohesive- ness and community. Only when groups attain strong social cohesiveness, trust, belonging, and a sense of community can they effectively accomplish their learning tasks (Gunawardena 1995 Gunawardena and Zittle 1997 Jacques 1992 Kreijns et al. 2003). This study is the third in a series of experiments to develop instruments for determining how users of CSCL environments experience those environments. The first (Kreijns et al. 2004) produced an instrument for determining social space and the second (Kreijns et al. 2007) one for determining sociability. This study has resulted in an instrument for determining social presence. 2 Short, Williams, and Christie���s social presence theory Short et al. (1976) social presence theory explains the interpersonal effects occurring between two interlocutors when communicating, regardless of the medium. They characterized different media in terms of their potential to communicate verbal and non- verbal cues conveying socio-emotional information such that the other is perceived as 366 Educ Inf Technol (2011) 16:365���381
���physically��� present. Non-verbal cues can be visual (e.g., facial expression, posture), auditory (e.g., voice volume, inflection), tactile (e.g., touching, shaking hands), and olfactory (e.g., smells). Short et al. defined social presence as the ���degree of salience of the other person in the interaction and the consequent salience of the interpersonal relationships [that] varies between different media, [affecting] the nature of the interaction and [interacting] with the purpose of [influencing] the medium chosen by the individual who wishes to communicate��� (p. 65). In their initial view, they held that the physical and technological characteristics of a medium were solely responsible for its degree of social presence an objective quality of the communication medium. They eventually relaxed their view to include subjective qualities of the medium (Walther and Burgoon 1992). Social presence theory has often been used to rank telecommunication media according their degree of social presence (i.e., face-to-face video-conferencing audio). According to the theory, media higher in social presence are more appropriate for carrying-out interpersonal tasks (Rice 1993 Steinfield 1986). In other words, developing and maintaining mutual trust in tasks that require conflict-resolution or negotiation require communication media which are high in social presence because these media are more effective for trust building and, consequently, social influence (Fulk et al. 1990). It hypothesizes that media-choice can be predicted such that ���users of any given communications medium are in some sense aware of the degree of Social Presence of the medium and tend to avoid using the medium for certain types of interactions specifically, interactions requiring a higher degree of Social Presence than they perceive the medium to have��� (Short et al. 1976, p. 65). Finally, Short et al. (1976) related two other social psychological concepts to social presence, namely intimacy (Argyle and Dean 1965) and immediacy (Wiener and Mehrabian 1968). According to Argyle and Dean���s equilibrium theory, communicating participants reach an optimal level of intimacy where conflicting approach and avoidance forces are in equilibrium. Immediacy, is a ���measure of the psychological distance which a communicator puts between himself [sic] and the object of his communication, his addressee or his communication...negative affect, low evaluation and non-preference for any of these things are associated with non-immediacy in communications��� (Short et al., p. 72). According to Gunawardena (1995), immediacy enhances social presence. 3 Towards an alternative measure of social presence Though social presence theory is both useful and attractive, it does have a number of problems. Lowenthal (2010), for example, pointed out that ���despite its intuitive appeal, researchers and practitioners alike often define and conceptualize this popular construct differently. In fact, it is often hard to distinguish between whether someone is talking about social interaction, immediacy, intimacy, emotion, and/or connectedness when they talk about social presence��� (p. 125). A number of these problems are discussed in the following subsections. 3.1 Technological versus social determism Social presence theory is a prime example of technological determinism the idea that it is a society���s technology that drives the development of its social structure and Educ Inf Technol (2011) 16:365���381 367 367