Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Marcie J. Bober-Michel, PhD; Susan M. Zgliczynski, PhD; Brock S. Allen, PhD; Mark A. Laumakis, PhD


Cognitive learning, education, experimental study, higher education, instructor immediacy, introductory Psychology, learning outcomes, nonverbal cues, perception, satisfaction, social presence, southern California, universities, verbal cues, video, web-based educational environments, Wimba Virtual Classroom


The social underpinnings of learning make it important to understand how people experience themselves and form relationships in web-based educational environments. Social presence is a critical factor of a communication medium that plays an important role in building community and improving the effectiveness of instruction. The components of social presence include words conveyed, verbal and nonverbal immediacy cues, and the context of the communication. The immediacy component of social presence is most often defined as perceived psychological closeness which is created in part by nonverbal cues (e.g., smiling and using gestures) and verbal cues (e.g., utilizing humor and inclusive pronouns). A number of researchers have demonstrated that instructors/teachers who "use" verbal and nonverbal immediacy behaviors can facilitate interaction and reduce psychological distance. There is also evidence for improved learning outcomes including satisfaction and perceived learning when highly immediate instructor behaviors are employed. However, few studies have investigated instructor immediacy, the ways it can be communicated, and its relationship to learning outcomes in online settings. It is important to assess the effectiveness of methods by which immediacy can be cultured into the design and delivery of instruction in virtual settings—the aim of this study was to contribute to this emerging research base. The researcher employed a randomized one-factor experimental research design to explore the effects of immediacy (conceptualized as instructor behaviors and mode of communication media) on students' perceptions of immediacy, cognitive learning, perceived learning, and satisfaction, in the Wimba Virtual Classroom. The study replicated design elements utilized by two previous studies, the main element being a 15-minute prerecorded teaching session where instructor immediacy was manipulated to create higher and lower conditions. In addition to manipulating instructor immediacy, the researcher explored two different technology-infused strategies for content delivery: one that combined full-motion video of the instructor with audio and text chat; and another that replaced full-motion video with a still photo of the instructor. Participants were 576 students from an introductory psychology course at a large urban university in southern California. Thirty-five sessions were conducted in a computer lab equipped with 22 individual work stations. Cognitive learning was assessed at three points, before exposure to the teaching session, just after exposure, and 5-6 weeks after exposure.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access