Social Anxiety in Digital Learning Environments: Empirical Evidence and Call to Action


  • Martin Cooper
  • Dirk Ifenthaler Curtin University
  • Muhittin Sahin



social anxiety, digital learning environment, higher education


It is internationally accepted that digitally-supported learning increases the accessibility of higher education due to its capacity to overcome traditional university's spatial and temporal limitations. At the same time, increased student-teacher ratios and reduced student-targeted support may lower the quality of learning and instruction in higher education. Research focussed on digital learning environments in higher education identified social anxiety as an increased challenge for learners and teaching staff. This international case study investigates students’ social anxiety at two higher education institutions. Findings show that social anxiety exists in higher education digital learning environments and differs across cultural contexts and gender. The data suggests that it is worth tertiary educators pausing to consider the role that social anxiety may be playing in reducing interactions within online units. Additional research is required to establish the causes of social anxiety in digital learning environments and develop strategies to minimise its effect.

Author Biography

Dirk Ifenthaler, Curtin University