Student Perceptions of Social Presence and Attitudes toward Social Media: Results of a Cross-Sectional Study

Joan S Leafman, Kathleen M Mathieson, Helen Ewing


Establishing and maintaining social presence in an online environment that depends on a learning management system (LMS) can be challenging. While students believe social presence to be important, LMS platforms have yet to discover a way to deliver this expectation. The growth of social media tools presents opportunities outside an LMS to foster social presence in online learning communities. The purpose of this study was to assess perceived levels of social presence in an LMS and willingness to use social media tools outside an LMS among online doctoral students. Student perceptions of social presence and willingness to use a social media tool were examined via a descriptive, cross-sectional survey design. The sample size was 138, representing a 52% response rate. Students reported high levels of social presence in the LMS, but noted important areas in which the LMS was deficient. While all students used at least one social media tool, the modes of communication with other students and instructors were primarily tradition (e-mail, LMS, phone). Despite their busy schedules, 57% of respondents reported having greater than 30 minutes available daily for social connections with other students and instructors, and 43% indicated that they were willing to use a social media tool if one was offered outside of the LMS. Given the importance that students place on social presence, the limitations of the LMS and the willingness of students to experiment with a social media tool in their learning environment, the exploration of adding such a tool is warranted.

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International Journal of Higher Education
ISSN 1927-6044 (Print) ISSN 1927-6052 (Online) Email:

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