Technology, Knowledge and Learning

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 641–657 | Cite as

Identifying Social Presence in Student Discussions on Facebook and Canvas

  • Monica Johannesen
  • Louise MifsudEmail author
  • Leikny Øgrim
Original research


This study examines student discussion fora in a Master’s programme. Previous student evaluations of the course highlighted the students’ dissatisfaction with the technology chosen for communication and recommended the use of Facebook instead. In this article, we raise the following question: ‘How do various digital discussion fora engage students in academic discussions?’ The collected data material consists of student evaluation reports and dialogues on Facebook and Canvas. The data were gathered from two courses that used Facebook or Canvas as their primary communication technology. In analysing these interactions, we identified several categories: social issues, academic discussions, practical issues, information flow, teacher information, and crossover discussions. The findings, which address the interplay between the social and the material nature of communication in academic discussions, are analysed from a sociomaterial perspective. Our conclusions indicate that the sociomaterial nature of the various discussion fora influences the students’ social presences, which consequently influence the academic discussions.


Facebook Canvas Social presence Sociomaterial Dialogic learning 


  1. Aaen, J., & Dalsgaard, C. (2016). Student Facebook groups as a third space: Between social life and schoolwork. Learning, Media and Technology, 41(1), 160–186.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2011). Three generations of distance education pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 80–97.Google Scholar
  3. Bennett, W. L., & Segerberg, A. (2011). Digital media and the personalization of collective action. Information, Communication & Society, 14(6), 770–799.Google Scholar
  4. Birkeland, N. R., Drange, E.-M. D., & Tønnessen, E. S. (2015). Digital collaboration inside and outside educational systems. E-Learning and Digital Media, 12(2), 226–241.Google Scholar
  5. Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 2, 27–40.Google Scholar
  6. Crook, C., & Cluley, R. (2009). The teaching voice on the learning platform: Seeking classroom climates within a virtual learning environment. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(3), 199–213.Google Scholar
  7. Durkee, D., Brant, S., Nevin, P., Odell, A., Williams, G., Melomey, D., et al. (2009). Implementing E-Learning and Web 2.0 innovation: Didactical scenarios and practical implications. Industry and Higher Education, 23(4), 293–300.Google Scholar
  8. Dysthe, O. (2013). Theoretical perspective on dialogue and dialogue-based teaching. In O. Dysthe, N. Bernhardt, & L. Esbjørn (Eds.), Dialogue-based. The art museum as a learning space. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget/Skoletjenesten.Google Scholar
  9. Eisenhardt, K. M. (2002). Building theories from case study research. In A. M. Huberman & M. B. Miles (Eds.), The qualitative resaercher’s companion. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  10. Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-network theory in education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Fenwick, T., Edwards, R., & Sawchuk, P. H. (2011). Emerging approaches to educational research: Tracing the sociomaterial. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Flitton, L., & Warwick, P. (2013). From classroom analysis to whole-school professional development: Promoting talk as a tool for learning across school departments. Professional Development in Education. Scholar
  13. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105.Google Scholar
  14. Gunawardena, C. N., & Zittle, F. J. (1997). Social Presence as a predictor of satisfaction within a computer-mdiated conferenceing environment. America Journal of Distance Education, 11(3), 8–26.Google Scholar
  15. Hetland, P., & Mørch, A. (2016). Ethnography for investigating the internet. Seminar.Net (Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 1–14).Google Scholar
  16. Hine, C. (2015). Ethnography for the internet: Embedded, embodied and everyday. London: Bloomsbury Academic.Google Scholar
  17. Hollyhead, A., Edwards, D. J., & Holt, G. D. (2012). The use of virtual learning environment (VLE) and social network site (SNS) hosted forums in higher education: A preliminary examination. Industry and Higher Education, 26(5), 369–379.Google Scholar
  18. Imsen, G. (2014). Elevens verden: innføring i pedagogisk psykologi (5 utg ed.). Oslo: Universitetsforl.Google Scholar
  19. Johannesen, M., Erstad, O., & Habib, L. (2012). Virtual learning environments as sociomaterial agents in the network of teaching practice. Computers & Education. Scholar
  20. Johannesen, M., Mifsud, L., & Øgrim, L. (2016). Facebook, canvas and social presence in online discussions. In Paper presented at the CERI2016 proceedings. 9th international conference of education, research and innovation (pp. 36–48). Associated University Presses.Google Scholar
  21. Johannesen, M., & Øgrim, L. (2015). Sosial tilstedeværelse i digitale læringsomgivelser. In H. Christensen & I. Ulleberg (Eds.), Samtalens didaktiske muligheter (pp. 141–165). Oslo: Gyldendal Akademisk.Google Scholar
  22. Johannesen, M., Smørdal, O., & Øgrim, L. (2016b). Facebook as an actor—A case of students negotating their social presence in an online course. International Journal of Media Technology and Lifelong Learning, 12(1), 19.Google Scholar
  23. Kreijns, K., Van Acker, F., Vermeulen, M., & van Buuren, H. (2014). Community of inquiry: Social presence revisited. E-Learning and Digital Media, 11(1), 5–18.Google Scholar
  24. Kurtz, G. (2014). Integrating a facebook group and a course website: The effect on participation and perceptions on learning. American Journal of Distance Education, 28(4), 253–263.Google Scholar
  25. Lambropoulos, N., Faulkner, X., & Culwin, F. (2012). Supporting social awareness in collaborative E-Learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(2), 295–306.Google Scholar
  26. Law, J. (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Leafman, J. S., Mathieson, K. M., & Ewing, H. (2013). Student perceptions of social presence and attitudes toward social media: Results of a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Higher Education, 2(1), 67–77.Google Scholar
  28. Madge, C., Meek, J., Wellens, J., & Hooley, T. (2009). Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: ‘It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work’. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 141–155.Google Scholar
  29. Maleko, M., Nandi, D., Hamilton, M., D’Souza, D., & Harland, J. (2013). Facebook versus blackboard for supporting the learning of programming in a fully online course: The changing face of computing education. In Paper presented at the learning and teaching in computing and engineering (LaTiCE).Google Scholar
  30. Manca, S., & Ranieri, M. (2013). Is it a tool suitable for learning? A critical review of the literature on Facebook as a technology-enhanced learning environment. Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning, 29(6), 487–504.Google Scholar
  31. Manca, S., & Ranieri, M. (2016). Is Facebook still a suitable technology-enhanced learning environment? An updated critical review of the literature from 2012 to 2015. Journal of Computer Assisted learning. Scholar
  32. Mathieson, K., & Leafman, J. S. (2014). Comparison of student and instructor perceptions of social presence. Journal of Educators Online, 11(2), 2.Google Scholar
  33. Matusov, E., & Miyazaki, K. (2014). Dialogue on dialogic pedagogy. Dialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal, 2, 1–47.Google Scholar
  34. Meishar-Tal, H., Kurtz, G., & Pieterse, E. (2012). Facebook groups as LMS: A case study. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4), 33–48.Google Scholar
  35. Miron, E., & Ravid, G. (2015). Facebook groups as an academic teaching aid: Case study and recommendations for educators. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 18(4), 371–384.Google Scholar
  36. Mueller, D., & Strohmeier, S. (2011). Design characteristics of virtual learning environments: State of research. Computers & Education, 57(4), 2505–2516.Google Scholar
  37. Mykota, D. B. (2015). A replication study on the multi-dimensionality of online social presence. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology—TOJET, 14(1), 11–18.Google Scholar
  38. Orlikowski, W. J. (2007). Sociomaterial practices: Exploring technology at work. Organization Studies. Scholar
  39. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods. London: Sage Publication.Google Scholar
  40. Petrovic, N., Jeremic, V., Cirovic, M., Radojicic, Z., & Milenkovic, N. (2013). Facebook vs. Moodle: What do students really think. In Paper presented at the international conference on information communication technologies in education (ICICTE). Google Scholar
  41. Salmon, G., Ross, B., Pechenkina, E., & Chase, A. M. (2015). The space for social media in structured online learning. Research in Learning Technology, 23(1), 28507.Google Scholar
  42. Selwyn, N. (2009). Faceworking: Exploring students’ education-related use of Facebook. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 157–174.Google Scholar
  43. Siemens, G., & Weller, M. (2011). Higher education and the promises and perils of social network. Revista de Universidad y Sociedad del Conocimiento (RUSC), 8(1), 164–170.Google Scholar
  44. Silverman, D. (2004). Qualitative research: Theory, method and practice. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  45. Son, J., Kim, J.-D., Na, H.-S., & Baik, D.-K. (2016). A social learning management system supporting feedback for incorrect answers based on social network services. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 19(2), 245–257.Google Scholar
  46. Sørensen, E. (2009). The materiality of learning. Technology and knowledge in educational practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Tu, C. H., & McIsaac, M. (2002). The relationship of social presence and interaction in online classes. The American Journal of Distance Education, 16(3), 131–150.Google Scholar
  48. Uzunboylu, H., Bicen, H., & Cavus, N. (2011). The efficient virtual learning environment: A case study of Web 2.0 tools and windows live spaces. Computers & Education, 56(3), 720–726.Google Scholar
  49. Yin, R. K. (2003). Applications of case study research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan UniversityOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations