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Vol. 4 No. 1 (2021): Special Issue: Technologies and Second Language Learners

Can anybody hear me? A qualitative investigation of social presence in an online course in English for Academic Purposes

January 15, 2020


Student evaluations of online classes are frequently lower than their face-to-face counterparts, and one of the most common explanations students provide for poor online class evaluations is a lack of communication. One phenomenon that has been shown to improve communication as well as learning outcomes is positive interdependence, the collaborative – not competitive – reliance of student group members on each other in order to achieve mutual group success.  Not only does collaborative learning encourage better participation and learning outcomes, but it offers a more natural learning style for students from collectivist cultures than the independent learning environment that online courses often provide. This makes the community of inquiry framework, which values social, teaching, and cognitive presences, appropriate when designing online teaching and learning environments for English learners. However, in a synchronous chat-based online class, social presence may manifest differently than in asynchronous text-based online classes. This paper presents a single qualitative case study of a synchronous online English for Academic Purposes class for Chinese high school students. The study introduces and evaluates the presence of indicators of social presence among the students in an especially non-communicative group.  Findings and implications for future research and practice of social presence in collaborative learning environments in online English for Academic Purposes classes are discussed.

Keywords: intercultural communication, learner motivation, online courses, social presence