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Instructional Design and Facilitation as Contributors to Social Presence in Asynchronous Online Discussion Forums

Erica L. Demler, Stephanie Nardozzi, Mark Bloxsom, and Deborah Moore-Russo

BRC Journal of Advances in Education

Volume 3

Number 1

Print ISSN: 2152-8810 Online ISSN: 2152-8829

Date: March 15, 2018

First Page 15

Last Page 30

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15239/j.brcadvje.2018.03.01.ja02


The purpose of this study is to identify factors that impact discussion in asynchronous online learning environments through the use of the Community of Inquiry framework (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 1999). Various facets of teaching presence related to the design and facilitation of online discussion activities are considered in conjunction with common indices from social network analysis. Social presence is measured at two different levels; individual social presence is concerned with each participant’s prominence in, influence over, and control of the discussion, while group social presence looks at the volume and diversity of connections that occur between students within each forum. Cognitive presence is also addressed by exploring the external materials that participants introduced as they posted in discussions. Findings indicate that having students initiate their own thread within a forum leads to a more balanced discussion, while required (as opposed to optional) forums tend to have both a higher volume of communication and greater connectedness between participants. Facilitation of discussion, as a facet of teaching presence, supported students’ cognitive presence. The information gained from this study will inform practices of asynchronous, online discussion-based courses offered at the postsecondary level.

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