Social presence

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Presence = being there. In the context of educational technology, we are mostly interested by issues related to virtual presence, however characteristics of physical presence are also at stake, e.g. in immersive virtual environments.

  • Presence refers to the illusion of "being there", i.e. is based on the idea of co-location
  • Presence : feeling on being there in the environment (real or virtual)
  • Social Presence : feeling of being together

See also: immediacy

Social presence as an issue in distance education

The issue

Social presence is an important topic to be addressed in distance education. Firstly, we must learn how to remediate the feeling of isolation in distance education. Second, learning in a collectivity where individual learners are aware of others and other's activities may be more productive.

Measure of social presence

The items relating to social presence (taken from Compendium of Presence Measures (dead link) in the GlobalEd questionnaire (Gunawerda and Zittle (1997) can give an implicit definition about some issues:

  • Messages in GlobalEd were impersonal
  • CMC is an excellent medium for social interaction
  • I felt comfortable conversing through this text-based medium
  • I felt comfortable introducing myself on GlobalEd
  • The introduction enabled me to form a sense of online community
  • I felt comfortable participating in GlobalEd discussions
  • The moderators created a feeling of online community
  • The moderators facilitated discussions in the GlobalEd conference
  • Discussions using the medium of CMC tend to be more impersonal than face-to-face discussion
  • CMC discussions are more impersonal than audio conference discussions
  • CMC discussions are more impersonal than video teleconference discussions
  • I felt comfortable interacting with other participants in the conference
  • I felt that my point of view was acknowledged by other participants in GlobalEd
  • I was able to form distinct individual impressions of some GlobalEd participants even though we communicated only via a text-based medium.

A 5-point rating scale was used for each question

Tools to improve social presence

  • Firstly any sort of typical CMC tools that engage students in communication activities
  • Any sort of learning activities that let people co-construct products (e.g. texts in a wiki, debates in a forum, shared cognitive maps)
  • Awareness tools that show participants who is "here", who does what, what information did change, what is new etc.

Instructional design models

Social presence in virtual environments

to do, e.g.

  • social awareness tools in portals (e.g. community portals vs. e-learning systems)
  • social awareness in non-immersive virtual environments.

The focus of social presence research is not just about improving the feeling of presence. It also addresses issues like

  • nature and kinds of presence
  • how artifacts influence the feeling of presence (including forms of social presence that go beyound typical "real" presence.


  • (dead link) Portal with news, on-line papers, e.g. its Compendium of Presence Measures was very valuable resource for presence researchers (but see ISPR links above that may include the same information, including a lot of dead links - Daniel K. Schneider (talk) 12:31, 20 April 2020 (CEST))


  • Allmendinger, Katrin (2010). Social Presence in Synchronous Virtual Learning Situations: The Role of Nonverbal Signals Displayed by Avatars, Educational Psychology Review, 22 (1), 41-56. DOI:10.1007/s10648-010-9117-8
  • Anderson, J., Ashraf, N., Douther, C., & Jack, M. A. (2001). Presence and usability in shared space virtual conferencing: A participatory design study. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 4(2), 287–305. [DOI:10.1089/109493101300117965
  • Becker, B., & Mark, G. (2002). Social conventions in computer-mediated communication: A comparison of three online shared virtual environments. In R. Schroeder (Ed.), The social life of avatars: Presence and interaction in shared virtual environments (pp. 19–39). London: Springer
  • Bente, G., Rüggenberg, S., Krämer, N. C., & Eschenburg, F. (2008). Avatar-mediated networking: Increasing social presence and interpersonal trust in net-based collaborations. Human Communication Research, 34, 287–318. 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2008.00322.x
  • Gunawerda, C.N., & Zittle, F.J. (1997). Social presence as a predictor of satisfaction within a computermediated conferencing environment. The American journal of distance education, 11(3), 8-26.
  • Being There, Concepts, effects and measurements of user presence in synthetic environments. Edited by G. Riva, F. Davide & W.A. IJsselsteijn, Amsterdam: IOS Press (2003). ALL Chapters are downloadable in PDF format
  • Heeter, C. (1992). Being there: The subjective experience of presence. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 1(2), 262–271.
  • Homer, B. D., Plass, J. L., & Blake, L. (2008). The effects of video on cognitive load and social presence in multimedia-learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 786–797. DOI:10.1016/j.chb.2007.02.009
  • Mikropoulos, T. A., & Strouboulis, V. (2004). Factors that influence presence in educational virtual environments. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 7(5), 582–591.
  • Nilsson, A., Heldal, I., Schroeder, R., & Axelsson, A.-S. (2002). The long-term uses of shared virtual environments: An exploratory study. In R. Schroeder (Ed.), The social life of avatars: Presence and interaction in shared virtual environments (pp. 112–126). London: Springer.
  • Nowak, K. L., & Rauh, C. (2007). Choose your “buddy icon” carefully: The influence of avatar androgyny, anthropomorphism and credibility in online interactions. Computers in Human Behaviour, 24(4), 1473–1493. [DOI:10.1016/j.chb.2007.05.005
  • Sallnäs, E.-L. (2005). Effects of communication mode on social presence, virtual presence, and performance in collaborative virtual environments. Presence, 14(4), 434–449. DOI:10.1162/105474605774785253
  • Tu, C. (2002a). The measurement of social presence in an online learning environment. International Journal on E-Learning 1(2), 34-45.
  • Stefan Thie, Jacoliene van Wijk, A General Theory on Presence, Experimental evaluation of social virtual presence in a decision making task, Paper presented at Presence in Shared Virtual Environments Workshop, University College London, 10 - 11 June 1998. html
  • Yee, N., & Bailenson, J. N. (2008). A method for longitudinal behavioral data collection in Second Life. Presence, 17(6), 594–596. DOI:/10.1162/pres.17.6.594