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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Promoting social presence : building connectedness in educational cyberspace Liang, Kristy Yan

Abstract

The purpose of this study was an attempt to increase our understanding of how using language/culture/identity narratives online affects both native and nonnative English-speaking students’ development of social presence. I used Garrison and Anderson’s (2003) definition of social presence as participants’ ability in a community of inquiry to project themselves socially and emotionally, as a ’real’ person (i.e., their full personality), through the medium of communication being used. This study examines an intensive graduate course offered in mixed-mode (face-to-face and online) at a Canadian university in the summer of 2004 with 12 graduate students and their instructor. This study analyzed the online collaborative activity in the course that involved sharing and discussing group members’ autobiographies about learning a second language (L2) and focusing on their language/culture/identity development experiences. From the beginning of the course, each student wrote and shared their autobiography on the WebCT Bulletin Board (BB). This study mainly employed grounded theory and applied quantitative content analysis (QCA) as a supplementary method. Multiple sources of data consisted of online BB transcripts, interviews, participants’ assignments and field notes. And which were used to examine students’ engagement in online learning community. In this study, a theoretical model called Cyber-Narrative Mediated Connecting involving the use of mixed-mode and language/culture/identity narrative was constructed. The theoretical model consisted of four major core categories: Valuable Connecting, Constructed Connecting, Experiential Connecting and Medium Connecting. This study showed that sharing language/culture/identity narrative was not only an icebreaker, but also facilitated student interaction, promoted their social presence and participation, particularly for L2 students. This research also showed that social presence is substantial in facilitating the creation of an online learning community. The student participants used various strategies to develop connectedness with other community members, especially the participants who preferred a high level of connectedness, consistent with the view that social presence is one of the important antecedent conditions for constructive learning. The theoretical model adds to existing social presence theory. Moreover, the use of multiple research procedures helps shed light upon the benefits of the online discussions.

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