Student Learning Satisfaction in Online Learning Environments and Teacher Presence: Is there a connection?

Just as we develop our students’ self-efficacy and acknowledge the importance of our social presence during face-to-face learning, as the world continues to shift and technology becomes more prominent, we need to consider further enhancing our pedagogical practices for online learning.

Key Takeaway: In the past two years, education all over the world has been forced to adapt and embrace online learning. Students and teachers alike had to become more proficient in using technology—some navigating with ease, and others finding it more challenging. However, just as educator presence and student self-efficacy is important and impactful in the classroom, these two factors are also crucial to successful online learning. —Nika Espinosa

Lim et al.'s (2021) study, "Making online learning more satisfying: The effects of online-learning self-efficacy, social presence, and content structure" is the first to consider how social presence may matter more when learners have lower online learning self-efficacy and, separately, when the content is less structured. Here, the authors analysed readily available research on topics such as online learning, learning satisfaction, social presence, and online learning efficacy to help guide their hypotheses and research questions. 

This study was conducted with university students in Singapore. In order to establish variables, the researchers focused on a single discipline, manipulated instructor presence through the use of vocal tone, and utilized the life events of a historical figure, which provided the authors with both structured and unstructured content. The authors also used four different videos that included one of the following factors: 

  • high instructor presence and structured content
  • low instructor presence and structured content
  • high instructor presence and unstructured content
  • low instructor presence and unstructured content 

The authors measured variables using 7-point scales, adapted to fit the context. The different hypotheses and research question studied are listed below:

  • Hypothesis 1 (H1): Online learning satisfaction is higher when instructor presence is high versus low.
    • The results show that there is a positive correlation between high instructor presence and online learning satisfaction, which is consistent with studies already published. It is clear that the students appreciated social presence during the lesson, especially when the lessons are unstructured. Lim et. al quotes Rosenthal and Walker (2020).1 and Wilson et.al (2018),2 "Instructor presence does not necessarily lead to more learning, but students have greater preference and liking of online formats with higher levels of instructor presence and find it easier to pay attention to those formats."
  • Hypothesis 2 (H2): Online learning self-efficacy is positively associated with online learning satisfaction.
    • The authors also found that students with high online self-efficacy were observed to have more learning satisfaction. The consideration to develop online learning efficacy in students also aligns with the findings of Artino (2008),3 Lim (2001),4 and Womble (2007).5 
  • Hypothesis 3 (H3): The effect of instructor social presence on learning satisfaction is more positive for students with lower online learning self-efficacy.
    • The third hypothesis, however, did not prove to be statistically significant. Again, this connects to considerations for developing online learning self-efficacy in students in order to increase learning satisfaction. 
  • Hypothesis 4 (H4): The relationship between instructor presence and learning satisfaction is more positive for unstructured content than for structured content.
    • “The pedagogical takeaway here is that, even with highly structured content, instructor presence can enhance the learning experience, but it has more benefit for less structured content.” 
  • Research Question 1: Does learning satisfaction differ between unstructured and structured content?
    • The researchers found that there was no difference in learning satisfaction between the differences in content, and this could be attributed to different learning styles and preferences of students.

In conclusion, the findings suggest that we need to develop learner online self-efficacy and enhance instructor presence during online learning in order to develop self-directed learners that will benefit greatly from virtual lessons. Just as we develop our students’ self-efficacy and acknowledge the importance of our social presence during face-to-face learning, as the world continues to shift and technology becomes more prominent, we need to consider further enhancing our pedagogical practices for online learning.

Summarized Article:

Lim, J. R. N., Rosenthal, S., Sim, Y. J. M., Lim, Z.-Y., & Oh, K. R. (2021). Making online learning more satisfying: The effects of online-learning self-efficacy, social presence, and content structure. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939x.2021.1934102

Summary by: Nika Espinosa - Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.

Research author Sonny Rosenthal, Ph.D., was involved in the final version of this summary.

Additional References:

  1. Rosenthal, S., & Walker, Z. (2020). Experiencing live composite video lectures: Comparisons with traditional lectures and common video lecture methods. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 14(1), A08. https:// doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2020.140108
  2. Wilson, K. E., Martinez, M., Mills, C., D’Mello, S., Smilek, D., & Risko, E. F. (2018). Instructor presence effect: Liking does not always lead to learning. Computers & Education, 122, 205–220. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2018.03.011
  3. Artino, A. R. (2008). Motivational beliefs and perceptions of instructional quality: Predicting satisfaction with online training. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(3), 260–270. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00258.x
  4. Lim, C. K. (2001). Computer self-efficacy, academic self-concept, and other predictors of satisfaction and future participation of adult distance learners. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(2), 41–51. https://doi.org/10.1080/08923640109527083
  5. Womble, J. C. (2007). E-learning: The relationship among learner satisfaction, self-efficacy, and usefulness. Alliant International University. https://www.learntechlib.org/p/119496

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We are a dedicated group of learners that are constantly seeking to improve the lives of the children we care for. Whether you are a teacher, parent, assistant, or administrator, we give you free access to the most recent special education related research and practices available. Our twice monthly MARIO Memo summarizes and shares studies from peer-reviewed journals, while our learning letters provide insights from MARIO classrooms.

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