Understanding interpersonal interaction in an online continuing education course

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Conference Title

Annual Meeting of the University of Illinois Phi Delta Kappa


Champaign, IL

Date of Presentation



This qualitative case study was designed to examine how interpersonal interaction benefited (and did not benefit) participants in an online professional development course. In recent years, elearning courses in workplace and organizational settings have begun to include interaction and dialogue among participants. This case study is an in-depth exploration of interpersonal interaction and social presence within one such course. Notable findings include (a) participants valued the sharing of specific case-based knowledge by fellow participants, (b) some participants valued professional socialization with others in the field, (c) enthusiastic learners revealed complex and contradictory perspectives regarding interpersonal interaction, (d) facilitators needed to model social presence for participants, (e) some “inactive” participants were actually engaged, and (f) learners may seek online courses for purposes of intellectual safety.