Chiming In: Social Presence in an International Multi-site Blended Learning Course

Here’s a link to my dissertation for my Doctor of Education in Distance Education degree from Athabasca University, Canada.


This mixed methods action research study investigates one international multi-site blended learning class comprised of refugee and non-refugee learners. The interventionary action of this study used WhatsApp mobile instant messaging (MIM) to increase and sustain online course discussions, for which no part of the final grade was assigned to online participation. The MIM messages were coded for indicators of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) social presence, and then analyzed for correlations to final grade. For this population of learners living in Canada, Thailand, and Kenya, affective social presence is a negative predictor of final grade and cohesive social presence is a positive predictor. More specifically, learners achieving grades of 85% or higher expressed less self-disclosure and more group references and phatic messages as a percentage of the total messages sent expressing social presence than other learners.

The study uses arts-based first-person reflections to explore the experiences of the researcher in conducting this action research and openly releasing its source data. Writing, mathematics, and visual arts are the three primary modes of documenting, analyzing, and reporting the findings of this study. An innovative presentation of data emerges as mathematically sound. This study shares the successful steps in obtaining ethical approval to preserve data for unlimited secondary use. Obtaining participant consent for their data to be used for unlimited secondary use may have potentially positive ethical consequences for conducting further research involving refugees living in fragile contexts. 

Keywords: social presence, refugee, mobile instant messaging, grade, online discussion, higher education in emergencies, community of inquiry, open data, ethics 

I’ve also created an online puzzle game based on my research.

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