Categories of Social Presence

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Garrison1 identifies three categories of interactions that he considers to be indicators of social presence:

  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Open Communication
  • Cohesive Responses

Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication refers to expressions of emotions through either conventional or unconventional means. Examples of unconventional expressions of emotion might include the repetitious use of punctuation or all caps (I’m so HAPPY!!!!!), or the use of emoticons such as  🙂 or 😉 . Other indicators include the use of humour, which is often especially difficult to interpret in the absence of typical paralinguistic cues, but is a powerful indicator of goodwill. Finally, Garrison points out the importance of self-disclosure. This can include biographical information, comments about hobbies, or, of particular importance, expressions of vulnerability.

Such communications serve to set the stage for an open and respectful dialogue focused around the academic goals of the community, and is important in the early stages of the course.

Open Communication

Academic dialogue is enhanced when communication is both reciprocal and respectful. Indications of open communication include the use of the reply feature in LMS software as opposed to creating a new thread, quoting other members’ posts, indicating agreement, complimenting another member’s post, or asking clarifying questions.

Cohesive Responses

Interpersonal and open communication serves to build group cohesion, the key goal of social presence. Indicators of cohesive responses are the use of vocatives (referring to another member of the community by name), using group pronouns in reference to the community, and the use of phatics (terms or phrases that are purely social such as greetings or closures).

The table below is copied from Garrison2, (p. 38-39) and shows the different categories of social presence and how they might be indicated in a course.

Social Presence Indicators

 

Footnotes

  1. Garrison, D. R. (2011). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.
  2. Garrison, D. R. (2011). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.