Skip to Content

Center for Teaching Excellence

  • Social Presence Online

Social Presence in the Online Course


Why do some students and instructors enjoy online courses and feel connected to each other while others struggle to make sense of them? Research suggests that our satisfaction with online teaching and learning depends upon our “social presence,” i.e. a degree to which we can project our personalities and be perceived as real people in digital environments. But how important is it in the learning process and does it affect student academic performance?

This presentation examines the role of social presence in promoting class participation, collaborative learning, academic achievement and satisfaction with learning. Presenters share social presence strategies from graduate and undergraduate online courses and share data from midterm and end-of-course learning effectiveness surveys. The session concludes with suggestions for increasing student and instructor social presence in online courses with small and large enrollments.      

About the Facilitators

Beverly Baliko is an Associate Professor in the College of Nursing. She has taught psychiatric mental health nursing since 2000. She has a strong interest in online teaching/learning formats and has been an enthusiastic faculty collaborator in the promotion of innovative classroom strategies for adult learners, both in transitioning existing courses, to online delivery, and in new course development. Baliko's research interests include the consequences of trauma and violence and mental health interventions following traumatic loss or interpersonal violence. She has presented research findings at several regional, national, and international venues.

 Vera Polyakova-Norwood is the Director of Online Learning in the College of Nursing, where she assists faculty with design, development, implementation and evaluation of online courses, modules and activities. She has led numerous workshops on technology-based teaching and learning for USC faculty and graduate students.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.