An examination of how community of inquiry relates to student performance in an online community college course




McWhorter, Robert Rowe.


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Research has revealed that students in online classes may have higher rates of attrition than those in traditional face-to-face classes. Effective teaching and learning in an online environment requires different pedagogical skills than those used in traditional face-to-face classes. Online courses must focus on the quality of interaction. As an exploratory study, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between students' perceived community of inquiry and learning outcomes as indicated by (a) course retention, (b) final grade, and (c) students' perceived quality of learning in a community college online environment. Community of inquiry, a theory of online interaction, was indicated by (a) social presence, (b) cognitive presence, and (c) teaching presence. The study also looked at how demographics affect learning outcomes. The study used a non-probability sample consisting of 52 students (26 students in each of two sections of an online Principles of Accounting I course). The students self-enrolled for the fall 2012 semester at a community college. One of the sections (treatment group) had additional interactive activities. The study used a survey instrument that was validated and operationalized. Statistical analyses were conducted with t-tests and correlations. Between group t-test results were not statistically significant for course retention. Correlation results for community of inquiry to grade were not statistically significant, with one exception: one's grade was correlated to cognitive presence with the treatment group. Correlation results for community of inquiry to quality of learning were statistically significant in both the treatment and non-treatment groups with one exception: quality of learning was not correlated to cognitive presence in the treatment group. Correlation results for quality of learning to grade were statistically significant only for the treatment group. Results suggest two major implications. First, interaction is critical for student outcomes. The treatment group reported higher performance ratings in all areas. Second, getting students involved in high interaction early in a course may include completion of low stakes assignments. Future studies could focus on the ability of educators to utilize technology to increase the amount of interaction in the virtual classroom.


A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.


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