The Importance of Social Presence and Motivation in Distance Learning

  • Cathy A. Robb (Oakland City University)
  • John Sutton (Oakland City University)


The purpose of this experimental study was to investigate whether motivational emails sent from an instructor to students had an impact on student motivation and performance, measured by course completion and fi nal course grade in a community college online course. The theoretical framework for this study was based on the four elements of the ARCS model: attention (A), relevance (R), confi dence (C), and satisfaction (S). This theory by John Keller (1983) enhances the learning environ- ment and stimulates students’ motivation to learn, therefore improving retention and course grade. The sample for the study was students enrolled in 12 online classes offered by one community college during the spring 2009 semester. These students were randomly assigned to two groups, a control group and an experimental group, with the experimental group receiving fi ve motivational email messages. Keller’s (2006) Course Interest Survey (CIS) was used to measure student motiva- tion. The CIS instrument was modifi ed so that the experimental group received six open-ended ques- tions concerning the impact of the motivational messages on their course performance. The fi ndings showed students participating in an online course benefi ted from the treatment. Results showed a higher proportion of the experimental group were successful completers of the online course than the control group. Results also showed a signifi cant difference in fi nal course grade and CIS scores for the experimental and control group. The fi nal grades of the experimental group ex- ceeded the control group. This study stands apart from other ARCS research as being one of the fi rst empirical studies to use emailed motivational messages and the CIS, supplemented with open-ended questions, for com- munity college online courses. The results provide valuable insights into how email can be used in online classes to motivate students and enhance course performance.

Keywords: distance learning, higher education, internet, research, research methods

How to Cite:

Robb, C. A. & Sutton, J., (2014) “The Importance of Social Presence and Motivation in Distance Learning”, The Journal of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering 30(2).

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Published on
04 Jan 2014