Pathway to presence: an investigation of ambient awareness in online learning environments

J Weidlich, TJ Bastiaens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Due to the pervasiveness of online technology, especially social media and social networking sites (SNS) like Twitter and Facebook were are surrounded by a constant stream of information about other individuals. On the other hand, even though distance and online learning has become mainstream, there are still concerns leveled at many of these educational offerings, one of them being the relative social isolation of online and distance students. In this study, we investigate if and how ambient awareness, a concept originated in research in interpersonal effects of SNS, can play an important role in how salient social impressions of peers emerge and how this leads to perceptions of social presence among students. To this end, we use an impression formation paradigm in a four-week online distance course (N = 51). We found that students were able to form impressions of their peers through ambient awareness. These impressions differed in prevalence from the ones gathered through direct social interaction. In a larger second sample (N = 169), we find ambient awareness to be a mediator between the sociability of the learning environment and perceptions of social presence. Implications, limitations and suggestions for further research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-275
Number of pages14
JournalInteractive LearnIng Environments
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2022


  • Ambient awareness
  • SIPS
  • distance education
  • impression formation
  • online learning
  • social presence


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