The capacity to foster interpersonal interactions in massive open online courses (MOOCs) has frequently been contested, particularly when learner interactions are limited to MOOC forums. The establishment of social presence—a perceived sense of somebody being present and “real”—is among the strategies to tackle the challenges of online learning and could be applied in MOOCs. Thus far, social presence in MOOCs has been under-researched. Studies that previously examined social presence in MOOCs did not account for the peculiar nature of open online learning. In contrast to the existing work, this study seeks to understand how learners perceive social presence, and the different nuances of social presence in diverse MOOC populations. In particular, we compare perceptions of social presence across the groups of learners with different patterns of forum participation in three edX MOOCs. The findings reveal substantial differences in how learners with varying forum activity perceive social presence. Perceptions of social presence also differed in courses with the varying volume of forum interaction and duration. Finally, learners with sustained forum activity generally reported higher social presence scores that included low affectivity and strong group cohesion perceptions. With this in mind, this study is significant because of the insights into brings to the current body of knowledge around social presence in MOOCs. The study’s findings also raise questions about the effectiveness of transferring existing socio-constructivist constructs into the MOOC contexts.
Poquet, O., Kovanović, V., de Vries, P., Hennis, T., Joksimović, S., Gašević, D., & Dawson, S. (2018). Social presence in massive open online courses. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 19(3), 43–68. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i3.3370