In biological psychology, awareness describes an animal's perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event. Awareness does not necessarily imply understanding. Awareness is a relative concept. An animal may be partially aware, may be subconsciously aware or may be acutely aware of an event. Awareness may be focused on an internal state, such as a visceral feeling, or on external events by way of sensory perception. Awareness provides the raw material from which animals develop qualia, or subjective ideas about their experience. ... Awareness is also a concept used in CSCW. Its definition is not yet reaching a consensus in the scientific community. (Wikipedia 2006)
Social awareness means knowing who are active in the present (learning) environment and what they are/were doing now/next/previously. Patterns of activity can suggest when a person is likely to be active, maybe even the reasons of inactivity (e.g., a difficult task).
Especially on research of CSCW, awareness has been found to be essential for successful collaboration (Dourish & Bellotti 1992). Awareness has been also implemented in different ways to support group work in synchronous (Gutwin & Greenberg 1999) and asynchronous online learning environments (Koivunen 2002).
Dourish, P. & Bellotti, V. (1992). Awareness and coordination in shared workspaces. In: Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW92), November 1-4, 1992, Toronto, Ontario, ACM Press.
Gutwin, C. & Greenberg, S. (1999). The effects of workspace awareness support on the usability of real-time distributed groupware. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 6 (3), 243 – 281.