Publication Date

5-2017

Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

3-17-2017

Type of Culminating Activity

Dissertation

Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Educational Technology

Department

Educational Technology

Major Advisor

Jesús Trespalacios, Ph.D.

Advisor

Chareen Lee Snelson, Ed.D.

Advisor

Patrick R. Lowenthal, Ph.D.

Abstract

Social presence has been analyzed in online asynchronous environments within higher education. The current study was designed to garner insight into students’ perceptions of social presence within the Blended Synchronous Learning Environment (BSLE). This environment is unique since it includes both the face-to-face classroom and an online synchronous classroom in one environment. The research described in the current paper was a case study designed to examine the experiences of graduate students in two blended synchronous classes. Specifically, the research examined students’ perceptions of interactions within the BSLE. Analysis included an examination of how students described interactions with their peers, the instructor, designed interactions and social presence. Participants were students taking classes in the BSLE. Observations, interviews, and an open-ended survey were used to collect data.

Findings indicated that students preferred to interact with the instructor during whole class discussion but stated that social presence was an important aspect to their learning. Students also described a process of forming social bonds with their peers in terms of designed interactions, activities designed by the instructor to promote collaboration. The web camera was described by the students as a means for beginning to form relationships through the ability of being able to physically identify their colleagues. Further, students were able to form relationships with their peers through designed interactions such as case studies and ill-structured problems.

Based on the results of this study, suggestions for instructors and designer/course developers regarding the design and implementation of class activities are provided. Future research can build on the findings to investigate how students form relationships through intentionally designed activities that promote collaboration. Additionally, more research is needed to validate instructional strategies specific to the BSLE.

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