In a field study on distance education and communication we varied the social presence of a tutor in four degrees: a tutor mediated by verbal, written information (condition 1), the same tutor mediated by written information and various personal views (condition 2), the same tutor mediated by written and spoken information (condition 3), and the same tutor mediated by text, views and spoken language (condition 4). Three hypotheses derived from cues-filtered-out (e.g. Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976; Spears & Lea, 1992) and adaptation theories (e.g. Clark & Brennan, 1996; Walther, 1992) were tested: (1) To experience the tutor with less social presence leads to extremely emotional evaluations as well as more task oriented, informal, and tense reactions compared to conditions in which the tutor can be experienced with greater social presence. (2) Adaptation to the medium takes place via the use of typographical sideways symbols. (3) Time is an important factor in adaptation: with passing time, differences between groups converge.

We recorded data from 98 German male students who participated for 9 weeks in an off-campus online seminar on certain topics of General Psychology. Instruction took place via 6 virtual rooms (Web pages) on the Internet (library, virtual classroom etc.). The analyses of students's online activities and their communication style are based on a large amount of data: Altogether, students logged in 3608 times, read 1240 mails, and composed 160 mails. The communication style observed in the mails partly confirms hypotheses (1) and (2). We also noticed significant changes in the communication style with progressing time. The data of the investigated sample, however, could not fully support hypothesis (3). Here, further research seems to be necessary.