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Connections, Engagement, and Presence

Journal of Continuing Higher Education Volume 60, Number 1, ISSN 0737-7363


A well-designed online course can provide opportunities for active learning, creative thinking, and knowledge construction with high levels of student satisfaction. The latest Babson/Sloan survey on online education, however, shows that approximately one-third of the chief academic officer participants still consider online education inferior to face-to-face education. The author visited some of the early learning theories and some of the recent research to discover what people know about connections, student engagement, and the sense of presence in online education. In this article, she presents conclusions that can be drawn from this journey through the literature. Electronic connections are widespread and varied providing students with mixed-media opportunities to connect with course content, teachers, and one another. Social interaction seems to be a basic need, and technology may sometimes substitute for human interaction to the point where people sometimes attribute human characteristics to technologic devices. Successful models of engaged learning in online education are based on constructivist principles, problem-based learning, and strategies for interaction. Student satisfaction is a factor contributing to student success and retention. Student satisfaction is based on a complex set of variables including intrinsic motivation and interest in the course topics, teacher-student transactional engagement, student-student transactional engagement, the sense of social presence in the course, cognitive absorption, institutional support, active citizenship, and noninstitutional support. The quality of interaction and degree of engagement continues to be a central theme when analyzing these variables. The community of inquiry model involves overlapping spheres of student-content interaction, teacher-student interaction, and student-student interaction with the maximum educational experience in the center of the overlaps. This understanding of the importance of complex interactions can be applied to the strategies and techniques used in online discussions. The more complexity in the interaction strategies and the more ownership by the student of the learning process, the better chance of achieving high levels of engagement, student satisfaction, student success, and retention.


Hoskins, B.J. (2012). Connections, Engagement, and Presence. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 60(1), 51-53. Retrieved December 14, 2019 from .

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