Education Division Scholarship

Increasing Social Presence in Graduate Online Courses via Instructional Design

Document Type

Research Poster

Publication Date




This study examined recent instructional design practices for increasing social presence in online graduate courses. For the purposes of this study, social presence is defined as the “sense of being with another” (Biocca, et al., 2003, p. 456). According to the Community of Inquiry Framework (CoI), teaching, social, and cognitive presence are key components necessary to engage students in a deeper and meaningful learning environment (Garrison, Anderson, &; Archer, 2000). However, due to the separation of time and location, social presence is difficult to achieve in online programs (Akcaoglu &; Lee, 2016). This study sought to discover recent practices used by faculty and instructional designers to promote social presence in online graduate courses.


The authors first reviewed prominent online learning literature (e.g. Garrison, 2007; Ito, et al, 2013; Holland, 2019; Marsick &; Watkins, 2001; Siemens, 2005; Utecht &; Keller, 2019). This was followed by mining written data specific to the concepts of social presence in graduate courses. Further criteria included that data was limited to those practices that advanced social presence, were generated within the recent five years (2015 thru 2020), were accessible online from publically available websites, such as universities with a visible online footprint, articles, and blogs. Data were analyzed, coded into categories, and common themes were identified.


Findings from this study included research and practical implications. This study highlights recent social presence approaches used by faculty and instructional designers, and contributes to the field of research in andragogy associated with online learning in graduate courses.