gms | German Medical Science

First Joint Conference of the German Society of Nursing Science (DGP) and the European Academy of Nursing Science (EANS)

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pflegewissenschaft e. V.

08.07.2021, online

Social presence in online nursing education: exploring its relevance amongst different types of learners

Meeting Abstract

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  • corresponding author Joseph Grech - Institute of Applied Sciences, Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology, Msida, Malta

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pflegewissenschaft e.V. (DGP). First Joint Conference of the German Society of Nursing Science (DGP) and the European Academy of Nursing Science (EANS). sine loco [digital], 08.-08.07.2021. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2021. Doc21dgp15

doi: 10.3205/21dgp15, urn:nbn:de:0183-21dgp150

Published: July 5, 2021

© 2021 Grech.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



Background: Social presence, a concept used to refer to the degree of salience when using an online communication medium, is essential for an online collaborative constructivist learning experience. While social presence has been associated with increased satisfaction and perceived learning amongst nursing students, the need for social presence can be subjective in nature, being influenced by the students’ learning preferences, such as their sensory modality preferences, commonly denoted as VARK (Visual, Aural/Auditory, Read/write and Kinesthetic).

Objectives: To explore nursing students' need for social presence and its relevance to their sensory modality learning preferences (VARK).

Design and methods: An explorative qualitative design was utilized. Two semi-structured focus groups based on the Social Presence Model [1] were held with five second-year and seven third-year undergraduate nursing students at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology. Participants were also asked to report their preferred sensory modality/ies in online learning. The focus groups were video-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were analyzed using conventional content analysis. The results were presented and agreed upon by the participants enhancing the study’s credibility.

Results: All students identified themselves as multi-modal learners having diverse learning preferences. Social presence was associated with ‘learning’, and ‘active participation.’ The participants remarked its relevance for collaborative learning, drawing on their diverse learning styles for supporting one another and achieving better learning outcomes.

Conclusion: Despite having different learning preferences, all students remarked the need for social presence in online undergraduate nursing education. The design of online courses based on social presence is thus encouraged amongst fellow nurse educators.

Conflict of interest: The author declares no conflict of interest.

Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


Whiteside A. Introducing the Social Presence Model to Explore Online and Blended Learning Experiences. Online Learning. 2015;19(2). DOI: 10.24059/olj.v19i2.453 External link