Date of Award

Winter 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design & Technology

Committee Director

Gary R. Morrison

Committee Member

Ginger S. Watson

Committee Member

Edward Neukrug


First described by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000), the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework suggests social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence are essential elements to foster successful educational experiences in computer-mediated higher education distance learning environments. While hundreds of CoI-based articles have been published since 2000, those critical of the framework and related research suggested a lack of empirical evidence to support the framework's central claim that a CoI leads to deep and meaningful learning outcomes (Rourke & Kanuka, 2009). The current study, conducted with 51 graduate students in five distance education courses at the same university, compared the students' responses to a CoI perception survey with three measures of learning achievement as assessed by the course instructors.

While significant positive relationships were indicated among social, teaching, and cognitive presences, as well as between each of these presences and perceived learning in the course, no relationship was suggested between the CoI composite score and any of the three instructor-assessed learning achievement measures. Only the cognitive presence subscale was found to be significantly positively correlated (r2 = .08) with one instructor-assessed achievement measure, the significant project score, but no presences were correlated with the other two instructor-assessed measures of learning achievement. However, when controlled for other course features, social, teaching, and cognitive presences were not predictors of any of the three instructor-assessed measures of learning, but were instead significantly correlated with course satisfaction.

With no relationship suggested between the CoI framework and objective measures of learning, the value of the CoI framework as an educational process model remains challenged. In addition, results of this study suggested that CoI survey-based measures and student self-reports of learning are more appropriately used as approximations of student attitude toward the course rather than as measures of student learning achievement.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).