Date of Award

Summer 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Community College Leadership

Committee Director

Mary H. Duggan

Committee Member

Amy B. Adcock

Committee Member

Sarah K. Nielsen

Committee Member

Terrell L. Perry


The Classroom Community Scale (Rovai, 2002b) was used to examine faculty and student perceptions of students' sense of community at two points during an academic semester. The study also examined the relationship between student sense of community scores and their final course grades. A non-experimental research design was used by the researcher to analyze pre-survey to post-survey score means of students' sense of community as perceived by students and faculty. Two hundred sixty-nine (269) students and 48 faculty members representing 56 online arts and science courses at a community college in Virginia completed the pre-survey and post-survey surveys.

Students' perceptions of their sense of community score means significantly declined from the beginning of the semester to the end of term within many of the tested variables including one math course, total population, male students, female students, part-time students, biology students, "other" students, white students, students with no prior online experience, and students having completed seven or more online courses prior to the start of the semester. Students also articulated a decline from early in the semester to the end of the term regarding perceptions of timely feedback and opportunities for learning. Faculty perceptions of students' sense of community showed a significant decline in only four of the tested variables including full-time faculty pre-survey score means compared to part-time faculty; sociology faculty pre-survey score means compared to English Composition and English Literature faculty; biology, philosophy, and psychology faculty post-survey score means compared to English literature faculty; and philosophy faculty pre-survey score means compared to Communication Studies and English Composition instructors. In a comparison of student to faculty sense of community pre-survey and post-survey mean scores, full-time student pre-survey score means were significantly higher than full-time faculty pre-survey score means, sociology students had significantly higher pre-survey score means than the sociology faculty, and students with three to four years of online experience had significantly lower perceptions of students' sense of community than faculty with three to four years of online course experience. A small positive correlation between students' final course grades and students' sense of community was found within the total population, female students, full-time and part-time students, white students, and students between the ages of 24-30 and 31-40.

Professional development sessions will be created for the researcher to meet with specific campus groups to explain the research and present the findings. These sessions will ideally result in discussions to enhance the online program. Although 50% of students indicated that they do not need or desire a sense of community within their online course(s), the correlation between sense of community and student grades cannot be ignored. The results should not be generalized to a larger audience; however, other schools may use the data and analyze it to begin conversations regarding sense of community at their respective institutions. This study presents several implications for future research including operationalizing "sense of community", reviewing course activities desired in online courses, defining online interaction, examining whether students wish to learn or simply complete course requirements, and identifying student and faculty expectations for timely feedback.


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