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Lowenthal, P. R., & Dunlap, J. C. (2010, April). Investigating Twitter's ability to enhance social presence. Paper
pres...
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                  Investigating Twitter’’s Ability to Enhance Social Presence

                                      P...
3


                                       Theoretical framework
         Social presence is essentially a theory that exp...
4



                                                Methods
         We began using Twitter in our online courses in the ...
5


n.d.).
        Finally, the third phase of the study (which we plan to complete in May and June 2010)
will consist of ...
6


invited them to join us in our Twitter adventure as we tested its instructional potential. Although
not everyone chose...
7



Phase Two Results
         We then surveyed students taking courses in the fall 2009 and spring 2010. While we are
st...
8




Figure 1. Students’’ responses of what activities were effective at making them feel connected to
their instructor.
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Table 3
Frequency of Student Responses
                                       Strongly   Disagree   Neutral   Agree   ...
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        We also asked students to rate the degree to which different instructional technologies
and strategies helped...
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Table 4
Frequency of Student Responses
                                      Strongly                                ...
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   ••   …… I have never gotten into Twitter and it's never gained my interest at all so I didn't look
        at anyt...
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Then in response to why they did or didn’’t participate in Twitter, students said such things as:
   •• Previous exp...
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cannot report any results. During this phase, we will interview four students who received a high
social presence sco...
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enhanced by just one instructional strategy or tool, but instead by a carefully crafted set of
instructional strategi...
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                                          References
Aragon, S. (2003). Creating social presence in online environmen...
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Keill, M., & Johnson, R. D. (2002). Feedback channels: Using social presence theory to compare
        voice mail to...
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Parry, D. (2008b, February). Teaching with Twitter. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(25).
     Retrieved from ht...
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Sweetser, K. D. (2008, February). Teaching Tweets. Retrieved March 1, 2008, from http://www.
    kayesweetser.com

Ul...
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                                    Appendix A
                        Investigating Social Presence Survey
         ...
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    (COURSE A)
c. Specific trouble shooting ““How-to””
    Screencasts (IT5670)
d. Screencast (i.e. Audio/Video) Feedb...
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20. This question asks you to consider
specific activities in your course (either
COURSE A or COURSE B). Please rate
t...
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participate in Twitter:
25. If applicable, in what ways did Twitter
(or the Twitter feeds posted in the course
shell) ...
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                                           Appendix B

                              Semi-structured Interview Questio...
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6. What do you believe are the key characteristics of an effective online course?

7. In an online course, how do yo...
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AERA 2010 - Investigating Social Presence and Twitter

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Abstract
To be truly effective, online learning must facilitate the social process of learning. This involves
providing space and opportunities for students and faculty to engage in social activities.
Although learning management systems offer several tools that support social learning and
student engagement, the scope, structure, and functionality of those tools can inhibit and restrain
just-in-time social connections and interactions. In this paper, we describe the results of our use
of Twitter to encourage free-flowing just-in-time interactions and how these interactions
enhanced social presence in our online courses.

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  1. 1. 1 Lowenthal, P. R., & Dunlap, J. C. (2010, April). Investigating Twitter's ability to enhance social presence. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, Denver, CO. Investigating Twitter’’s Ability to Enhance Social Presence Patrick R. Lowenthal University of Colorado Denver Joanna C. Dunlap University of Colorado Denver Keywords: Twitter, social networking, social presence, online teaching, Abstract To be truly effective, online learning must facilitate the social process of learning. This involves providing space and opportunities for students and faculty to engage in social activities. Although learning management systems offer several tools that support social learning and student engagement, the scope, structure, and functionality of those tools can inhibit and restrain just-in-time social connections and interactions. In this paper, we describe the results of our use of Twitter to encourage free-flowing just-in-time interactions and how these interactions enhanced social presence in our online courses.
  2. 2. 2 Investigating Twitter’’s Ability to Enhance Social Presence Patrick R. Lowenthal University of Colorado Denver Joanna C. Dunlap University of Colorado Denver Introduction Online educators tend to design the scope, structure, and function of an online course based on the tools available within a learning management system (LMS). Because of this, a LMS (e.g., eCollege, Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle) can constrain how online educators’’ design and develop their online courses (Lane, 2007; Morgan, 2003; Siemens, 2006). While adequate for some basic learning activities (e.g., information and document sharing, asynchronous and synchronous discussion, and assessment via quizzes), LMSs are modeled after classroom settings with drop boxes, grade books, announcements, and so on. What tends to be missing is the just-in- time, and sometimes playful, interactions that happen before and after class, during a break, and when students and faculty bump into each other between class meetings. Out-of-the-classroom interactions like these and many others have potential instructional value (Kuh, 1995) and can help strengthen interpersonal relationships between and among students and faculty that enhance the learning community inside the classroom. Twitter——a popular new microblogging tool that has been receiving increased press lately——is a possible solution to this problem (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009a). An increasing number of people have argued that Twitter can be used for educational purposes (Keefer, 2008, Parry, 2007, 2008a, 2008b; Sendall, Ceccucci, & Peslak, 2008; Sweetser, 2008). We specifically believe that Twitter (like a number of other social networking technologies) can be used to capture just-in-time, out-of-the-classroom, interactions and therefore increase social presence. However, to date, no formal research has been conducted to support claims like these. Therefore, after informally implementing and studying the use of Twitter in our online courses during the fall 2008 and spring 2009 semesters (see Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009a, 2009b), we decided to extend our inquiry into the use of Twitter in online courses. However, we also began to recognize that Twitter was just one of many tools and teaching strategies we employ to establish and maintain social presence. Therefore, our investigation of Twitter is one small part of a larger study on investigating students’’ perceptions of social presence within online courses. With that in mind, the purpose of this paper is to report on the results of our initial investigation as well as the results of our continued investigation of student's perceptions of using Twitter for educational purposes——more specifically, their perceptions of using Twitter to increase social presence in online courses——during the fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters.
  3. 3. 3 Theoretical framework Social presence is essentially a theory that explains the ability of people to present themselves as "real people" through a communication medium (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). Originally developed to explain the effect telecommunications media can have on communication, social presence was used to describe the degree of salience (i.e., quality or state of ““being there””) between two communicators using a communication medium (Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976). Social presence theory took on new importance with the rise of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and later online learning (Lowenthal, 2009a, 2009b). Now a central concept in online learning, researchers have shown——to varying degrees——a relationship between social presence and student satisfaction (Gunawardena, 1995; Gunawardena & Zittle, 1997; Richardson & Swan, 2003), social presence and the development of a community of learners (Rourke, Anderson, Garrison, & Archer, 2001; Rovai, 2002), and social presence and perceived learning (Richardson & Swan, 2003). Because of results like these, researchers and practitioners alike continue to try out different ways to establish and maintain social presence in online courses. For instance, Aragon (2003) identified over a dozen different ways of establishing social presence in online courses (e.g., incorporating audio and video, posting introductions, frequent feedback). Others have looked at ways to create and maintain social presence by using tools outside of an LMS. For instance, DuVall, Powell, Hodge, and Ellis (2007) investigated using text messaging to improve social presence. Also, Keil and Johnson (2002) investigated using Internet based voicemail to increase social presence. And we have written about the power of using Digital Storytelling to establish social presence (Lowenthal & Dunlap, 2010). Although the typical LMS provides tools that——when used appropriately——can establish and enhance social presence (e.g., asynchronous discussions, synchronous chat tools), the tools reside within the online system. Because students and faculty have to login and navigate to several different locations in the course to engage in discussion, collaboration, and sharing, the communication is sometimes forced and outside of the context of day-to-day, hour-to-hour, and minute-to-minute experience. Another challenge of encapsulating all social interaction opportunities within a LMS is that we tend to lose the informal, free-flowing, just-in-time banter and chit-chat that we have with students in our on-campus courses——the banter that helps us get to know each other, experience our personalities, and connect on a more emotional level (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009a). This sort of informal connection between and among students and faculty we contend is one aspect of cultivating student engagement and social presence. We believe that Twitter, a multiplatform Web 2.0——part social networking - part microblogging tool——freely accessibly on the Web (Stevens, 2008), is another potentially effective way to establish and maintain social presence. Faculty have recently begun experimenting with how to use Twitter in the on-campus classroom (Keefer, 2008, Parry, 2007, 2008a, 2008b; Sendall, Ceccucci, & Peslak, 2008; Sweetser, 2008; Ullrich, Borau, Luo, Tan, L. Shen, & R. Shen, 2008; van den Broek, 2009). But to date research has not been conducted on its use in online courses. We strive to address this gap with our research.
  4. 4. 4 Methods We began using Twitter in our online courses in the fall of 2008 to increase social presence and provide just-in-time interactions. Based on our experience and overall satisfaction with Twitter, we decided to investigate our students’’ perceptions of Twitter. Our investigation involves three phases (see Table 1). During the first phase, we simply decided to solicit student feedback about Twitter. Based on the results, we decided to formally extend our research on students’’ perceptions of Twitter and other instructional strategies and technologies implemented to enhance social presence [Note: For this study we focused on how various instructional strategies and technologies implemented in our online courses enhanced social presence. It is important to note, however, that we also incorporated these instructional strategies and technologies in our courses to support students’’ conceptual understanding.]. We decided to use a partial mixed methods sequential equal status research design (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2009) that would consist of surveying our students and then conducting follow up interviews with a subset of the students based on the results of their survey. However, as we looked at the data we collected during Phase One of this study as well as considered our continued use of Twitter, we decided that while we still believed that Twitter can increase social presence and provide just-in- time interactions we were equally curious about other instructional strategies and technologies we use in our courses. In the second phase of this study, we constructed a survey to more broadly investigate students’’ perceptions of social presence in our online courses. In this paper, though, we only report on our students’’ perceptions of Twitter (as well as our lessons learned using Twitter) as a tool to establish and maintain social presence in online courses. The survey we constructed was based on the Community of Inquiry survey (which assesses social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence) (Arbaugh et al., 2008). For the purposes of this study, we eliminated about half of the questions (e.g., the one’’s focused on cognitive presence) and then added additional questions focused on students’’ perceptions of instructional strategies and technologies we use to establish and maintain social presence (e.g., Twitter, digital storytelling, and so forth). The survey consists of Likert scale questions as well as some open-ended questions (See Appendix A). The sample of our study consists of graduate students completing a graduate certificate in eLearning, Master of Arts in eLearning, or a Master of Arts in Information and Learning Technologies (e.g., instructional design and technology in K-12 and corporate settings). We administered this survey to students in four different sections of two different completely online courses in the fall 2009 and spring 2010 semesters. There were a total of 79 students in the two different courses. At the time of AERA, a total of 17 students completed the survey; this is a 21.5% response rate which is overall a low response rate compared to the average 33% response rate achieved by others conducting online surveys (see: Nulty, 2008; Sheehan, 2001). However, this is not that problematic because the goal of our study is to gain insight into our students’’ perceptions of social presence rather than to generalize our findings to a larger population (IAR,
  5. 5. 5 n.d.). Finally, the third phase of the study (which we plan to complete in May and June 2010) will consist of semi-structured interviews (See Appendix B for the questions that the interviews will begin with) that will focus on students’’ perceptions of using various tools and instructional strategies like Twitter as a part of their online learning experience. The data from the interviews will then be coded using a constant comparison method (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2007). All three phases of our investigation of Twitter are essentially focused on investigating the following questions: 1. What are student's perceptions of using Twitter in an online course? [Quantitative + Qualitative] 2. What are the different perceptions of social presence between students who use Twitter and those who don't? [Quantitative + Qualitative] Table 1 Three Phases of the Our Study Phase One: We began using Twitter in our online courses in the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009 to increase social presence and provide just-in-time interactions. We informally asked students for feedback on our use of Twitter. Phase Two: We then used the data collected in Phase One and our experience teaching online to construct a survey to more formally investigate students’’ perceptions of our use of Twitter (as well as a number of other tools, technologies, and instructional strategies that aren’’t reported here). We administered this survey to four sections of students taking our online courses in the fall 2009 and the spring 2010. Phase Three: The final phase of our investigation involves follow up semi-structured interviews with subset of the students from phase 2. Results Our investigation of Twitter is still in progress. We will report the results we do have in the following paragraphs. Please contact us for the latest results. Phase One Results During fall 2008 and spring 2009 semesters, we incorporated Twitter into our online instructional design and technology courses. We did not require students to participate, but
  6. 6. 6 invited them to join us in our Twitter adventure as we tested its instructional potential. Although not everyone chose to participate, most did with positive results. By using a tool that enables just-in-time communication with the local (our course) and global (practicing professionals) community, we were able to engage in sharing, collaboration, brainstorming, problem solving, and creating within the context of our moment-to-moment experiences. Because of Twitter’’s ability to enable persistent presence (Siemens, 2007), our social interactions occurred more naturally and immediately than when we have to login to the LMS, navigate to the appropriate discussion forum, post a message, and then wait for someone to respond (after we already moved on to other work, thoughts, and issues). Students’’ reported during Phase One of this study such things as, •• Twitter has been a great way for me to check in with everyone who is using it. I found out how other’’s were feeling about school, how life was treating them, how their jobs and families were doing. This is something much more intimate than mandatory weekly discussions, although they carry their own merit. •• I really LOVE twittering with everyone. It really made me feel like we knew each other more and were actually in class together. •• Twitter was a big part of my connected-ness, with course colleagues and with you. Even though I didn’’t post a lot of tweets, I watched the Twitter dialogue. It made the connections stronger and helped me learn more about folks in the course and you. And, Twitter led me to some great resources. Thanks, Joni, for being such a responsive Twitter-er. •• I also like the twitter practice to see what you were up to. It is fun. •• Twitter led me to some great resources. Thanks, Joni, for being such a responsive Twitter-er. •• It sounds silly, but I followed your twitter so as rare as I signed on, you always were doing fun stuff. •• I enjoyed twittering. It was fun to have a small group to get started with. If we hadn't started as a class I probably wouldn't have picked it up on my own. But, it is a fun way to connect. •• It is probably my biggest regret from this semester that I didn’’t get more involved with the tools we have, as I see Twitter was quite a hit with other members of the course.
  7. 7. 7 Phase Two Results We then surveyed students taking courses in the fall 2009 and spring 2010. While we are still analyzing the results, preliminary results show that students reported a mean social presence score of 2.78. There is no consensus on what an ideal level of social presence is for an online course, but this number is smaller than the mean score of 3.18 reported by Swan et al. (2008). Students appeared to be very satisfied (M=3.5 on a 0-4 scale) and reported high levels of perceived learning (M=3.63 on a 0-4 scale) (see Table 2). But unlike the students in Phase One, students in Phase Two did not perceive Twitter as contributing to their connection with instructors or peers. Table 2 Social Presence, Satisfaction, and Perceived Learning Results Course A Course B Total Social Presence Score M=2.89 M=2.68 M=2.78 Affective Expression M=2.78 M=2.71 M=2.74 Open Communication M=3.29 M=3.00 M=3.15 Group Cohesion M=2.58 M=2.33 M=2.46 Satisfaction M=3.63 M=3.38 M=3.5 Perceived Learning M=3.50 M=3.75 M=3.63 We asked a few specific questions about students’’ perceptions of Twitter (see Appendix A). First, we asked students to rate the degree to which different instructional technologies and strategies helped the student connect with his/her instructor. One-on-one emails as well as instructor bios were the two highest ranked activities across both courses (see Figure 1). On the other hand, Twitter was ranked the lowest (see Table 3).
  8. 8. 8 Figure 1. Students’’ responses of what activities were effective at making them feel connected to their instructor.
  9. 9. 9 Table 3 Frequency of Student Responses Strongly Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly N/A Rating Disagree Agree Avg b. General ““How-to”” Screencasts 0 0 0 3 8 5 3.73 (COURSE A) t. One-on-one emails (COURSE A 0 0 2 1 12 1 3.67 & COURSE B) c. Specific trouble shooting ““How- 0 0 1 3 7 5 3.55 to”” Screencasts (COURSE A) p. Detailed written feedback on 0 0 1 2 5 8 3.5 projects (COURSE B) w. Instructor Bios (COURSE A & 0 0 1 6 8 1 3.47 COURSE B) d. Screencast (i.e. Audio / Video) 0 0 1 4 6 5 3.45 Feedback on Assignments (COURSE A) u. Adobe Connect Synchronous 0 0 2 5 7 1 3.36 sessions (COURSE A & COURSE B) n. Five minute phone conversation 0 0 2 2 5 7 3.33 (COURSE B) x. Previous relationship with the 0 0 2 3 5 5 3.3 instructor (COURSE A & COURSE B) a. Digital Storytelling (COURSE A) 0 0 2 5 5 4 3.25 j. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack 0 0 3 2 4 7 3.11 (COURSE B) f. Video Announcements (COURSE 0 1 1 5 4 5 3.09 A) h. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word 0 0 1 6 1 8 3 story for Flickr photos (COURSE B) i. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle 0 0 3 3 3 7 3 (COURSE B) o. Personalized instructor 0 0 4 2 3 7 2.89 announcements with photos (COURSE B) g. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in 0 0 2 4 1 7 2.86 Flickr (COURSE B) v. Threaded discussions (COURSE 1 2 4 4 5 0 2.63 A & COURSE B) e. Music-related Activities 0 0 7 4 2 3 2.62 (COURSE A) r. Musical interludes on weekly 0 1 6 1 1 7 2.22 agendas (COURSE B) q. Course overview videos 1 1 1 4 0 9 2.14 (COURSE B) l. Superhero Powers (COURSE B) 1 1 3 2 1 8 2.13 m. Just Ask Zoltar (COURSE B) 1 1 4 1 1 8 2 k. Top 100 List of Design 2 1 3 2 1 7 1.89 Guidelines (COURSE B) s. Twitter (COURSE A & COURSE 2 2 7 3 0 2 1.79 B)
  10. 10. 10 We also asked students to rate the degree to which different instructional technologies and strategies helped them connect with their fellow students. Digital storytelling and one-on- one emails were ranked the highest and Twitter was once again ranked the lowest (see Figure 2 and Table 4). Figure 2. Students’’ responses of what activities were effective at making them feel connected to their peers.
  11. 11. 11 Table 4 Frequency of Student Responses Strongly Strongly Rating Disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Agree N/A Avg a. Digital Storytelling (COURSE A) 0 0 2 5 6 3 3.31 l. One-on-one emails (COURSE A & COURSE B) 0 0 4 4 6 2 3.14 p. Open access to view peers’’ projects (COURSE A & COURSE B) 0 0 3 8 4 1 3.07 q. Previous relationship with peers (COURSE A & COURSE B) 0 0 4 6 5 1 3.07 h. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word story for Flickr photos (COURSE B) 0 0 2 5 1 8 2.88 m. Adobe Connect Synchronous sessions (COURSE A & COURSE B) 0 0 7 3 4 2 2.79 d. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in Flickr (COURSE B) 0 0 3 5 1 7 2.78 o. Fellow students peer reviews of your assignments (COURSE A & COURSE B) 0 2 4 6 3 1 2.67 j. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack (COURSE B) 0 2 2 3 2 7 2.56 n. Threaded discussions (COURSE A & COURSE B) 1 2 5 4 4 0 2.5 i. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle (COURSE B) 0 1 4 3 1 7 2.44 b. Musical Activities (COURSE A) 0 2 6 3 2 2 2.38 c. Instructors’’ Audio/Video Feedback on other students assignments (COURSE A) 0 1 8 2 1 4 2.25 f. Superhero Powers (COURSE B) 1 1 4 2 1 7 2.11 g. Top 100 List of Design Guidelines (COURSE B) 1 2 3 2 1 7 2 e. Just Ask Zoltar (COURSE B) 1 2 4 1 1 7 1.89 k. Twitter (COURSE A & COURSE B) 2 2 9 0 0 3 1.54 We then asked students to pick the activity they thought was least effective at helping them feel connected to their instructor. Over both courses, 44% of students listed Twitter as being the least effective. Some of the responses about Twitter were: •• The Twitter activity was least effective I thought. I don't see how knowing what my instructor or other classmates are doing with their leisure time helps me learn. •• Twitter since I had never used Twitter and I believe it is limiting to the number of characters •• I hate twitter. •• twitter- i didnt sign up and use it.
  12. 12. 12 •• …… I have never gotten into Twitter and it's never gained my interest at all so I didn't look at anything on Twitter. •• I will have to say the twitter stuff. I personally did not have much time to explore what benefit there could be in it. •• Twitter was least effective because I did not participate. Similarly when students were asked to pick the activity that was least effective at helping them feel connected to their peers, Twitter was selected by 50% of students as the least effective activity. Some responses were: •• Twitter, don't get it or understand why to keep people up to date when I am working, help me understand •• Twitter since I had never used Twitter and I believe it is limiting to the number of characters •• The Twitter and musical activities. I think it is good to know who your classmates are but to know what they are doing every minute is not interesting to me. The musical activities were nice and you can learn a little about what your peers enjoy to do in their leisure time but it doesn't give a rounded picture of the person. •• Twitter •• Twitter - I don't twitter so I never used it and so it wasn't effective for me. •• The twitter was least effective to me. I forgot I even had a twitter account. •• I don't use or get twitter at all. I think its lame. •• Twitter was the least effective because I did not participate. Finally we asked the students the following three open-ended questions specifically about Twitter: 1. Did you create a Twitter account and participate in Twitter during the course? 2. Please explain why you did or did not participate in Twitter. 3. If applicable, in what ways did Twitter (or the Twitter feeds posted in the course shell) help you feel connected to the instructor(s) of the course? Regarding the first question, 50% of the students revealed that they did not create a Twitter account. The other 50% either had an account already or created one. In response to this question, some students shared the following: •• Yes. I forgot about it •• I did and I hate it •• Yes but never used it •• I created an account and checked it regularly but no one really participated •• Yes, I opened an account. No, I didn’’t use it during the course. •• I created an account, but I did not use it.
  13. 13. 13 Then in response to why they did or didn’’t participate in Twitter, students said such things as: •• Previous experience with Twitter... uncomfortable. Too busy... I am not spontaneous enough for the speed of Tweeting. •• don't get it or understand why to keep people up to date when I am working, help me understand •• Already have LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and Yammer accounts. •• It was easy to add a few more people to the hundreds I already follow. •• I have concerns about posting information (or random thoughts) on the internet. As a teacher for Cherry Creek School District, I don't want people to have access to my personal life in any capacity. I have a Facebook page, but I am very cautious about what I post and who can see information. •• I was not interested in knowing what my instructor was doing each minute of the day. I don't want to know intimate details about my instructors and peers. I wanted to see how using Twitter could enhance my learning so I kept up with what my instructor was Twittering. •• I wasnt prepared to use Twitter... i didnt know anyone on there •• I don't have an interest in Twitter. I think it can be useful for very specific circumstances but it just doesn't fit my personality type! •• Given all that was involved in the 2 classes I was doing, plus working full time, I could not focus on twittering & blogging. •• I undestand the importance of social networking but I'm on the computer all day, and doing my coursework in the evening. As a result, I'm sick of electronic correspondence in any fashion. •• I really do not have the time and i am not sure i get the significance of it. •• Because no one else did. •• I don't care for twitter, I created an account before the course. •• I don't find twitter engaging; it's too chatty and I generally don't chat much. •• I participate in Twitter to see what is going on with a timely even that I am interested in. •• I just can't connect with Twitter; it's not my thing. Then finally regarding the last question, most responded N/A but one student (who already used Twitter before the course began) added: •• There was one time I was having a slow work day and went to Twitter to see that there was an Adobe Connect meeting on podcasting. I was able to log into the meeting and contribute some things I learned from being an independent podcast producer. Phase Three Results At the time of AERA, we have not completed the third phase of this study and therefore
  14. 14. 14 cannot report any results. During this phase, we will interview four students who received a high social presence score, and four students who received a low social presence score. Through these semi-structured interviews (see Appendix B for interview questions), we will find out more about the instructional strategies and technologies that both support and fail to support social presence needs in online courses, focusing on what makes them effective or not. Discussion So what does all of this mean? One thing is for sure, our preliminary results in Phase Two of this study are very different than our initial informal results during Phase One. Does that mean we should abandon Twitter? Not necessarily. And in many ways it is premature to draw any major conclusions from this data before conducting the follow-up interviews. However, one thing is for sure, some students in this sample had very strong feelings about Twitter even though a number of them had never tried it. Then there were those who tried it but just didn’’t ““get it.”” Twitter has received a lot of attention during the last year. The students in Phase One might have responded to it better because it was new and they hadn’’t formed any opinions about it ahead of time. At the same time, some students described Twitter as not fitting with their personality so it might simply be that the sample of students in the Phase Two sample have different personalities than the students in Phase One. But one thing seems clear, because some students struggle to ““get”” Twitter, we as instructors should spend more time explaining how we use Twitter and why we think it is useful and worth considering (e.g., as a tool for lifelong learning; see Dunlap & Lowenthal, in press). While we thought we had done this to a degree, possibly doing a better job might help some students see the value of Twitter. Faculty and students alike often struggle with online courses because ““being online”” tends to infiltrate every aspect of your life. Rather than going to class one day a week, in an online course instructors and students always seem to be——or feel they need to be——on. In addition, our students work full-time, and many have families and other personal commitments. So it might simply be that adding Twitter or any type of social networking to an already full plate of academic, professional, and personal responsibilities is too much for some people. Further, Rourke et al. originally pointed out that we are still unclear of what the optimum level of social presence might be. It might be that using a social networking tool like Twitter has a negative effect on social presence for some students. Perhaps the most interesting data from these preliminary results is that students seem to respond very well to basic things such as one-on-one emails and instructor biographies, and low tech strategies such as phone calls and detailed feedback. When trying to balance workload—— which online faculty often have to do (see Dunlap, 2005), it may be more important to attend to these activities in an online course rather than others——such as Twitter——to enhance social presence. Finally, although there seems to be——so far in the data collection——some clear winners and losers in terms of enhancing social presence, the other finding is that in any student audience there is a range of preferences, with one strategy not fulfilling the needs of all students. We also surmise (but wish to verify during Phase Three) that students’’ perception of social presence isn’’t
  15. 15. 15 enhanced by just one instructional strategy or tool, but instead by a carefully crafted set of instructional strategies and tools that reinforce social presence as a valued part of the teaching- learning experience. Limitations The number one limitation of our study is that it is not complete. Before citing this paper or drawing large conclusions from it, please contact us for the most up-to-date version. Another limitation to this study is the overall sample size and response rate. While we never had intentions of generalizing our findings to society at large, we still feel this study would be strengthened by a larger sample and higher response rate for Phase Two [Note: We will send out another request-for-participation once the spring 2010 semester is over, and believe that this will lead to considerably more responses.]. Conclusion / Implications We set out to enhance the social-presence potential of our online courses using Twitter. That is, we believed that the just-in-time nature of Twitter could provide us and our students with opportunities to connect and be perceived as ““real”” in ways that traditional LMS contained tools could not as well as other one-to-one tools such as instant messaging. The feedback from our students initially suggested that Twitter accomplished just this for many of them but our formal investigation of students’’ perceptions of Twitter at least at this point in our investigation seems to be telling a different story. We plan to continue collecting data over the summer and possibly even the fall to help increase our sample. Ultimately, we hope our inquiry will inform our selection of instructional strategies and tools for enhancing social presence in online courses, and provide insight into why certain strategies and tools are more effective than others. Our goal is to improve our own online teaching by better understanding where to invest time and energy to get the biggest social-presence bang for the buck.
  16. 16. 16 References Aragon, S. (2003). Creating social presence in online environments. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 100, 57-68. Arbaugh, J.B., Cleveland-Innes, M., Diaz, S.R., Garrison, D.R., Ice, P., Richardson, & Swan, K.P. (2008). Developing a community of inquiry instrument: Testing a measure of the Community of Inquiry framework using a multi-institutional sample. The Internet and higher Education, 11(3-4), 133-136. Dunlap, J. C. (2005). Workload reduction in online courses: Getting some shuteye. Performance Improvement, 44(5), 18-25. Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009a). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2), 129-136. Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009b). Horton hears a tweet. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 32(4). Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (in press). Learning, unlearning, and relearning: Using Web 2.0 technologies to support the development of lifelong learning skills. In G. D. Magoulas (Ed.), E-infrastructures and technologies for lifelong learning: Next generation environments. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. DuVall, J. B., Powell, M. R., Hodge, E., & Ellis, M. (2007). Text messaging to improve social presence in online learning. Educause Quarterly, 30(3), 24-28. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000) Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2( 2-3), 87-105. Gunawardena, C. N. (1995). Social presence theory and implications for interaction and collaborative learning in computer conferences. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 1(2/3), 147-166. Gunawardena, C. N., & Zittle, F. J. (1997). Social presence as a predictor of satisfaction within a computer-mediated conferencing environment. The American Journal of Distance Education, 11(3), 8-26. IAR. (n.d.). Assess Teaching: Response rates. Retrieved from, http://www.utexas.edu/ academic/diia/assessment/iar/teaching/gather/method/survey-Response.php Keefer, J. (2008, March). How to use Twitter in higher education. Retrieved from http://silenceandvoice.com/archives/2008/03/31/how-to-use-twitter-in-higher-education/
  17. 17. 17 Keill, M., & Johnson, R. D. (2002). Feedback channels: Using social presence theory to compare voice mail to e-mail. Journal of Information Systems Education, 13(4), 295-302. Kuh, G. D. (1995). The other curriculum: Out-of-class experiences associated with student learning and personal development. The Journal of Higher Education, 66(2), 123-155. Lane, L. M. (2007). Course management systems and pedagogy. Retrieved October 1, 2007, from http://lisahistory.net/pages/CMSandPedagogy.htm Leech, N. L., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2007). An array of qualitative data analysis tools: A call for data analysis triangulation. School Psychology Quarterly, 22(4), 557-584. Leech, N. L., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2009). A typology of mixed methods research designs. Quality and Quantity, 43(2), 265-275. Lowenthal, P. R. (2009a). Social presence. In P. Rogers, G. Berg, J. Boettcher, C. Howard, L. Justice, & K. Schenk (Eds.), Encyclopedia of distance and online learning (2nd ed., pp. 1900-1906). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Lowenthal, P. R. (2009b). The evolution and influence of social presence theory on online learning. In T. T. Kidd (Ed.), Online education and adult learning: New frontiers for teaching practices. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Lowenthal, P. R., & Dunlap, J. (2010). From pixel on a screen to real person in your students’’ lives: Establishing social presence using digital storytelling. The Internet and Higher Education. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2009.10.004 Morgan, G. (2003, May). Faculty use of course management systems. Research Study from the Educause Center for Applied Research (Vol. 2, pp. 1-6). Retrieved January 1, 2009, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERS0302/ekf0302.pdf Nulty, D. D. (2008). The adequacy of response rates to online and paper surveys: what can be done? Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(3), 301-314. Parry, D. (2007, November 1). Twitter away your weekend. Retrieved January 1, 2009, from http://outsidethetext.com/trace/38/ Parry, D. (2008a, January). Twitter for Academia. Retrieved from http://academhack. outsidethetext.com/home/2008/twitter-for-academia/
  18. 18. 18 Parry, D. (2008b, February). Teaching with Twitter. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(25). Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/media/video/v54/i25/twitter/ Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students’’ perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 7(1), 68-88. Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Assessing social presence in asynchronous text-based computer conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(2). Retrieved from http://cade.athabascau.ca/vol14.2/rourke_et_al.html Rovai, A. P. (2002). Building a sense of community at a distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3(1). Retrieved from http://www. irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/79/153 Sendall, P., Ceccucci, W., & Peslak, A. (2008). Web 2.0 matters: An analysis of implementing Web 2.0 in the classroom. Information Systems Education Journal, 6(64). Retrieved from http://isedj.org/6/64/ Sheehan, K. (2001). E-mail survey response rates: A review. Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, 6(2). Retrieved from, http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol6/issue2/sheehan.html Short, J., Williams, E., & Christie, B. (1976). The social psychology of telecommunications. London: John Wiley & Sons. Siemens, G. (2006). Learning or management system? A review of learning management system reviews. Retrieved January 1, 2009, from http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/wordpress/wpcontent/ uploads/2006/10/learning-or-management-system-with-reference-list.doc Siemens, G. (2007). Connectivism: Creating a learning ecology in distributed environment. In T. Hug (Ed.), Didactics of microlearning: Concepts, discourses, and examples (pp. 53-68). New York: Waxmann Verlag. Stevens, V. (2008). Trial by Twitter: The rise and slide of the year’’s most viral microblogging platform. TESL-EJ: Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language, 12(1). Retrieved from http://tesl-ej.org/ej45/int.html Swan, K., Shea, P., Richardson, J., Ice, P., Garrison, D. R., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2008). Validating a measurement tool of presence in online communities of inquiry. E-Mentor, 2(24), 1-12. http://www.e mentor.edu.pl/e_index.php? numer=24&all=1
  19. 19. 19 Sweetser, K. D. (2008, February). Teaching Tweets. Retrieved March 1, 2008, from http://www. kayesweetser.com Ullrich, C., Borau, K., Luo, H., Tan, X., Shen, L., & Shen, R. (2008, April). Why Web 2.0 is good for learning and for research: Principles and prototypes. Proceeding of ACM’’s 17th international conference on World Wide Web, Beijing, China. Retrieved from http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1367497.1367593 van den Broek, W. (2009, January). Twitter and medical education. Retrieved from http://www.shockmd.com/2009/01/14/twitter-and-medical-education/
  20. 20. 20 Appendix A Investigating Social Presence Survey . . . . 1. The instructor helped to keep course Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree participants engaged and participating in productive dialogue. . . . . 2. The instructor helped keep the course Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree participants on task in a way that helped me to learn. 3. The instructor encouraged course participants Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree to explore new concepts in this course. 4. Instructor actions reinforced the development Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree of a sense of community among course participants. . . . . 5. The instructor helped to focus discussion on Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree relevant issues in a way that helped me to learn. 6. The instructor provided feedback that helped Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree me understand my strengths and weaknesses. 7. The instructor provided feedback in a timely Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree fashion. . . . . 8. Getting to know other course participants Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree gave me a sense of belonging in the course. . . . . 9. I was able to form distinct impressions of Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree some course participants. . . . . 10. Online or web-based communication is an Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree excellent medium for social interaction. . . . . 11. I felt comfortable conversing through the Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree online medium. 12. I felt comfortable participating in the course Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 Strongly Agree discussions. . . . . 13. I felt comfortable interacting with other Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree course participants. . . . . 14. I felt comfortable disagreeing with other Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree course participants while still maintaining a sense of trust. . . . . 15. I felt that my point of view was Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree acknowledged by other course participants. . . . . 16. Online discussions help me to develop a Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree sense of collaboration. 17. This question asks you to consider specific activities in your course A or B. Please rate the degree to which you agree that each of the following activities helped you feel connected to your instructor(s). If a strategy wasn’’t used or you don’’t remember it being used, please select n/a. . . . . a. Digital Storytelling (COURSE A) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 1 2 3 4 Strongly Agree b. General ““How-to”” Screencasts n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree
  21. 21. 21 (COURSE A) c. Specific trouble shooting ““How-to”” Screencasts (IT5670) d. Screencast (i.e. Audio/Video) Feedback n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree on Assignments (COURSE A) e. Music-related Activities (COURSE A) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree f. Video Announcements (COURSE A) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree g. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree Flickr (COURSE B) h. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word story for n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree Flickr photos (COURSE B) i. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle (COURSE n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree B) j. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE B) k. Top 100 List of Design Guidelines n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE B) l. Superhero Powers (COURSE B) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree m. Just Ask Zoltar (COURSE B) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree n. Five minute phone conversation n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE B) o. Personalized instructor announcements n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree with photos (COURSE B) p. Detailed written feedback on projects n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE B) q. Course overview videos (COURSE B) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree r. Musical interludes on weekly agendas n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE B) s. Twitter (COURSE A & COURSE B) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree t. One-on-one emails (COURSE A & n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree COURSE B) u. Adobe Connect Synchronous sessions n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE A & COURSE B) v. Threaded discussions (COURSE A & n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree COURSE B) w. Instructor Bios (IT5670 & IT6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree x. Previous relationship with the n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 . 4 Strongly Agree instructor (COURSE A & COURSE B) 18. Pick the previous activity that you thought was the most effective and explain why it was effective with helping you feel connected to your instructor. 19. Pick the previous activity that you thought was the least effective and explain why it failed to help you feel connected to your instructor.
  22. 22. 22 20. This question asks you to consider specific activities in your course (either COURSE A or COURSE B). Please rate the degree to which you agree that each of the following activities helped you feel connected to your peers: a. Digital Storytelling (COURSE A) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree b. Musical Activities (COURSE A) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree c. Instructors’’ Audio/Video Feedback on n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree other students assignments (IT5670) d. Virtual Paper Bag: Five photos in n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree Flickr (COURSE B) e. Just Ask Zoltar (COURSE B) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree f. Superhero Powers (COURSE B) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree g. Top 100 List of Design Guidelines n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE B) h. Virtual Paper Bag: 350-word story for n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree Flickr photos (COURSE B) i. Virtual Paper Bag: Wordle (COURSE n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree B) j. Virtual Paper Bag: Soundtrack n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE B) k. Twitter (IT5670 & IT6710) n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree l. One-on-one emails (COURSE A & n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree COURSE B) m. Adobe Connect Synchronous sessions n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 . 4 Strongly Agree (COURSE A & COURSE B) n. Threaded discussions (COURSE A & n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree COURSE B) o. Peer reviews of course peers work n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Strongly Agree (COURSE A & COURSE B) p. Open access to view peers’’ projects n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 . 4 Strongly Agree (COURSE A & COURSE B) q. Previous relationship with peers n/a Strongly Disagree 0 . 1 .2. 3 . 4 Strongly Agree (COURSE A & COURSE B) 21. Pick the previous activity that you thought was the most effective and explain why it was effective with helping you feel connected to your peers. 22. Pick the previous activity that you thought was the least effective and explain why it failed to help you feel connected to your peers. 23. Did you create a Twitter account and participate in Twitter during the course? 24. Please explain why you did or did not
  23. 23. 23 participate in Twitter: 25. If applicable, in what ways did Twitter (or the Twitter feeds posted in the course shell) help you feel connected to the instructor(s) of the course? 26. If applicable, in what ways did Twitter (or the Twitter feeds posted in the course shell) help you feel connected to your peers in this course? 27. What aspects of the course helped you feel connected to your instructor(s)? 28. What aspects of the course helped you feel connected to your peers? 29. What was the most engaging aspect of the course? 30. What was the most memorable aspect of the course? 31. On a scale of 1-10, how much are you Didn’’t Learn anything 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Learned a great learning (if you still in the course), or did deal you learn (if you have completed the course) in this course? 32. On a scale of 1-10, how satisfied are Very unsatisfied 0 . 1 .2. 3 .4 Very Satisfied you (if you are still in the course), or were you (if you have completed the course) with this course? What course are you basing the answers of Course A or Course B this survey on? How many online courses have you taken before this course? Are you male or female? How old are you? 21-30 . 31-40 . 41-50 . 51-60 . 61-or older
  24. 24. 24 Appendix B Semi-structured Interview Questions Conduct follow up interviews with a sub group of students. Based on the results during phase 1 of the study, we plan to identify those with the highest and lowest social presence scores (as determined by the results of the CoI survey) and conduct follow up interviews with them. This procedure will help us dig deeper than the survey in hopes of identifying themes and trends in how these two different sub-groups perceive social presence. Interview Questions 1. Did you like your experience in the online course? Why or why not? 2. How active were you in your online course? How often did you login? What is your sense of the adequacy of your frequency of activity in the course? How do you feel about your level of participation in the course? 3. In an online course, how important do you think feeling connected to your instructor is as well as getting a sense that your instructor is "there" and "real"? Why? What types of technologies and learning activities help? 4. In an online course, how important do you think feeling connected to your peers is as well as getting a sense that they are "there" and "real"? Why? What types of technologies and learning activities help? 5. Your score on the social presence survey indicates that you felt well connected to your instructor and peers in the course. a. Do you agree with the result? Why or why not? b. What technologies and tools contributed to you feeling well connected to your instructor and peers? In what ways did the technologies and tools contribute? c. What learning activities contributed to you feeling well connected to your instructor and peers? In what ways did the activities contribute? d. How did you contribute to feeling connected to your instructor and peers? --OR-- Your score on the social presence survey indicates that you did not feel well connected to your instructor and peers in the course. a. Do you agree with the result? Why or why not? b. How did the technologies and tools influence your feelings of limited connection with your instructor and peers? c. How did the learning activities influence your feelings of limited connection with your instructor and peers? d. Please describe any specific actions you took to feel more connected with your instructor and peers.
  25. 25. 25 6. What do you believe are the key characteristics of an effective online course? 7. In an online course, how do you think your connection with your instructor and sense of your instructor as being there and being real influences your learning? 8. In an online course, how do you think your connection with your peers and sense of your peers as being there and being real influences your learning? 9. How much interaction have you had with your peers in this course (e.g., moderate, sufficient, lacking)? Please describe. 10. How much interaction have you had with your instructor in this course (e.g., moderate, sufficient, lacking)? Please describe.

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