An examination of social presence in online learning through the eyes of native and non-native English speakers
Yuzhu Teng, State University of New York at Albany, United States
State University of New York at Albany . Awarded
Research studies have found that social presence plays a critical role in online learning environments (Gunawardena, 1995; Harasim, Hiltz, Teles & Turoff, 1995; Swan, 2002; Tu & McIssac, 2002), but few studies have examined differences in the perception of social presence between learners. This current study examined social presence in online classrooms from the perspectives of both native and non-native English speakers. A survey questionnaire was conducted in four online courses from three institutions. The data was collected from fifty-nine students in four ethnic groups and speaking ten different native languages with Caucasian and native English speaking students as a majority of the participants.
The results of the study showed non-native English speakers' perceived learning was higher than that of native English speakers', perhaps an acknowledgement of English learning as well as learning in the subject area. In addition, students' ethnicity had an effect on students' evaluation of social presence in online learning environments. Caucasian students perceived higher social presence in online classes than Asian students did. Differences among the three institutions regarding the observed variables were also significant, which suggests that course design was another factor that influenced social presence in online learning environments.
As online learning grows internationally, virtual classrooms become increasingly multilingual and multicultural. Therefore a greater sensitivity to the needs and learning styles of various ethnic groups will become more critical. Future studies are needed to explore how students from different ethnic groups perceive and project social presence differently from each other. Such studies will inform the development of instructional methods that can support positive social presence behaviors in order to create and foster a socially welcoming, academically challenging, and effective learning community for all learners in online courses.
Teng, Y. An examination of social presence in online learning through the eyes of native and non-native English speakers. Ph.D. thesis, State University of New York at Albany.
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