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Amy Garrett Dikkers Edits New Book on Online Learning

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Amy Garrett Dikkers, associate professor in WCE’s Department of Educational Leadership, studies online and blended learning across the PK-20 spectrum. To date, she has more than two dozen publications that examine the value of online education for diverse populations of students and the teachers who work with them.

Most recently, Garrett Dikkers is co-editor of the book Social Presence in Online Learning: Multiple Perspectives on Practice and Research. The book was published in May by Stylus Publishing in association with The Online Learning Consortium. It is the sixth book in the series, Online Learning and Distance Education.

“Research suggests that students continue to struggle with isolation and disconnectedness in online courses,” Garrett Dikkers said. “This book brings together many well-known names in the field to give teachers, instructional designers and students enrolled in online programs practical strategies to enhance social presence.”

In a review, Lawrence C. Ragan, co-director of the Center for Online Innovation in Learning at Penn State University wrote, “Social Presence in Online Learning represents the most comprehensive research to application effort so necessary in the field of online learning.” He called the book a “must have” for anyone desiring to craft an engaged and connected online learning community.

Aimee Whiteside, associate professor of English and writing at the University of Tampa and Karen Swan, the James J. Stukel Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield are co-editors of the book. Charlotte Nirmalani Gunawardena, Regents’ Professor of Distance Education and Instructional Technology at the University of New Mexico authored a foreword. Somer Lewis, director of WCE’s Professional Development System office, along with Garrett Dikkers and Whiteside, is co-author of three book chapters.

Garrett Dikkers facilitated a webinar on social presence in online learning for the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development in September. She will be a featured presenter at the Online Learning Consortium annual conference in Orlando in November, where “meet the author” and book signing events are also planned.


Social presence continues to emerge as a key factor for successful online and blended learning experiences. It is commonly described as the degree to which online participants feel connected to one another. Understanding social presence with its critical connections to community-building, retention and learning outcomes allows faculty and instructional designers to better support and engage students.

This volume, Social Presence in Online Learning, addresses the evolution of social presence with three distinct perspectives, outlines the relevant research, and focuses on practical strategies that can immediately impact the teaching and learning experience. These strategies include creating connections to build community, applying content to authentic situations, integrating a careful mix of tools and media, leveraging reflective and interactive opportunities, providing early and continuous feedback, designing with assessment in mind, and encouraging change in small increments. Because student satisfaction and motivation play a key role in retention rates, and because increased social presence often leads to enriched learning experiences, it is advantageous to mindfully integrate social presence into learning environments.

Social Presence in Online Learning brings together eminent scholars in the field to distinguish among three different perspectives of social presence and to address how these viewpoints immediately inform practice.

Editorial Reviews

Social Presence in Online Learning represents the most comprehensive research to application effort so necessary in the field of online learning. From Dr. Michael Moore’s hopeful foreword through chapters on establishing foundational language, the applications to blended learning, personalized learning and the role of supporting technologies, this work covers the breadth, depth and promise of social presence in any instructional format! A must have for anyone desiring to craft an engaged and connected online learning community. (Lawrence C. Ragan, Penn State University)

The principals of this book are leaders in the field and this thoughtfully crafted collection of research and best practices related to social presence is impressive. These scholars, along with the distinguished authors of the chapters, have presented compelling guidance that bolsters this foundation of online learning. I strongly encourage educators to explore the insight shared in this extraordinary volume to inform their practice to the ultimate benefit of faculty and students. (Eric Fredericksen, University of Rochester, Vice President of the Board for Directors for the Online Learning)

Social Presence in Online Learning is of great importance to those in the field of online and blended learning. The insights provided in this book make it clear that social presence represents an essential element of any collaborative learning experience – online and otherwise. The comprehensive treatment of the social presence construct makes this book a key resource for those interested in online learning. (D. Randy Garrison, Professor Emeritus, University of Calgary)

Social presence is widely recognized as an important strategy in developing online and blended learning environments. The high-quality research and practical applications explored in this book inform educators and ensure that social presence is well-understood. My congratulations to the authors for illuminating the intricacies and nuances of this critical pedagogical approach. (Anthony G. Picciano, Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Hunter College)


Social Presence in Online Learning: Multiple Perspectives on Practice and Research is available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and Stylus Publishing