Developing Social Presence as an Academic Advisor for Online Graduate Business Students

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For more than 30 years, social science researchers have studied how students in online learning environments interact with each other. This has led to the development of a construct called

For more than 30 years, social science researchers have studied how students in online learning environments interact with each other. This has led to the development of a construct called social presence. Studies have shown that high social presence can lead to improved student retention, engagement, and satisfaction. The literature explores how social presence has been measured by faculty or researchers, but lacks insight on how other university staff can affect social presence in online graduate students. This is an action research mixed-methods study conducted by an academic advisor and attempts to measure social presence through a webpage intervention for an online graduate business program. A pre-and-posttest were conducted in a five month span, as well as semi-structured interviews with students of the program. Results suggest that overall, the intervention did not increase social presence in the program. It also suggests that social presence is developed between students in a variety of ways, and can even be developed between their academic advisor and themselves. Overall, this study acknowledges how academic advisors can explore social presence to improve academic advising techniques and interventions for their programs, while also adding to the literature a different perspective through the eyes of a university staff member.