Susan Cobb

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2008


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





School of Nursing

Committee Chair

Joan Such Lockhart

Committee Member

Carolyn Nickerson

Committee Member

Lynda Atack


online, web-based, social presence, internet, RN to BSN, education


While the development of online education has been progressing rapidly, further evaluation research is needed (Atack and Rankin, 2002; Halter et al., 2006). There is a need for further research on nursing students' experiences and satisfaction with online education, and correlating factors to promote the quality of online learning. Social presence is one factor that has been shown to affect outcomes such as satisfaction and perceived learning in online courses (Gunawardena and Zittle, 1997).

The purpose of this study was to assess social presence in online nursing courses and its relationship to student satisfaction and perceived learning. The theoretical framework for the study was the Framework for Assessing Outcomes in Web-based Nursing Courses (Billings, 2000). A descriptive, correlational study design was used. The study instrument was a 34-item questionnaire administered via the Internet and consisting of the Social Presence Scale and the Satisfaction Scale (Gunawardena and Zittle, 1997), and demographic questions. Subjects in the study were 128 students in an online RN-to-BSN program at one college in the northeastern United States who were taking an online nursing course during the study term. Results indicated that there was a strong relationship between overall satisfaction and overall social presence (rs = .63, p < .001)) and instructor performance (rs = .46, p < .001). Four sub-domains of social presence were identified: overall comfort with online and computer-mediated (CMC) communication, communication with CMC and the online environment, comfort and community of CMC/online environment, and attitudes toward CMC/online communication. Four sub-domains of satisfaction were identified: general satisfaction, usefulness of course, learning from course, and stimulation and ongoing learning. All sub-domains of social presence correlated highly (rs = .61 - .72, p < .001) with the satisfaction sub-domains except the communication factor which correlated to a lesser degree (rs = .39 - .45, p < .001). There was a strong relationship between perceived learning and social presence (rs = .61, p < .001) and with comfort with the online course (rs = .66, p < .001). Overall social presence, instructor performance, and the sub-domains of social presence predicted a significant amount (p < .001) of total variance in overall satisfaction and perceived learning. No significant relationships were found between the demographic factors and overall social presence or perceived learning. Females had significantly higher scores on the communication factor (p = .02) and subjects with more online course experience found the courses more useful (p = .04).