Embedding Social Media to Enhance Social Presence: Perceived Learning and Cognitive Engagement in an Online Graduate Course
Abstract: The goal of this qualitative research was to examine graduate students’ (N=19) perception of how synchronous and asynchronous social media communication created social presence in online learning, and the role it played in students’ cognitive engagement and perceived learning. The research also examined how embedding social media technologies created social presence through analysis of course artifacts. Data collection consisted of a focus group interview (N=7) and content analysis of social media artifacts. Subsequently, data were transcribed, coded with descriptive codes (Saldana, 2012), and synthesized to form relevant themes. The results indicated that embedding social media provided opportunities for authentic communication in online learning that deepened learning, facilitated community, critical thinking, and socially-mediated metacognition, and provided immediacy and feedback. However, student self-efficacy with the platforms correlated with their perception of its value for online learning. Implications for online learning are discussed in terms of leveraging unique affordances of social media platforms for enhancing social presence for student motivation and satisfaction within the course. The research contributes to further our understanding of learner variability in self-efficacy and personal preferences impacting their online learning experience with social media.