CoI in Dissertations

The following dissertations focus primarily on the Community of Inquiry and are listed in descending publication order, (most recent at top).  Where possible, links to full-text versions are included.  If full-text copies are not freely available, links to pertinent journals are included.

Kineshanko (Befus), M.K. (2016) A thematic synthesis of Community of Inquiry research 2000 to 2014 (unpublished doctoral dissertation) Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada

This meta-synthesis study examines the nature, focus, and context of the large and diverse corpus of research literature that has arisen from a highly utilized and cited distance, blended, and online learning framework, the Community of Inquiry (CoI). The heterogeneous thematic synthesis was conducted using a three-stage approach. In stage one, a collection of 1,515 empirical research artifacts citing the seminal article that introduced the CoI was aggregated.  Stage 2 examination reduced the sample to 910 artifacts that were examined further to determine seminal article citation use. Of the 910 artifacts examined, 329 artifacts met thematic synthesis inclusion parameters and were re-examined to determine the level and intent of CoI citation use within each artifact. The synthesis conducted in stage 3 used iterative, inductive coding to identify 24 basic themes, 11 organizing themes, and 4 global themes.

The findings of this study show that the terms, concepts, processes, and tools described in the Garrison et al (2000) seminal publication are still germane to distance, blended, and online researchers and educators to define terminology, measure factors, introduce CoI-based concepts to positively influence learning conditions and experiences, and to validate or extend the framework itself.  Garrison et al., fused deep understanding of learning and interaction with early, insightful, and comprehensive appreciation of the affordances provided by the relatively new (at the time) communication capabilities of the Internet into a framework that has become an indispensable constituent of distance, blended, and online learning research and practice.

This study has added new dimensions to the understanding of CoI-based research, revealing insights such as the influence the seminal publication has had on distance, online, and blended learning nomenclature not identified prior to this study.

Abraham, D. R. (2013). Technology readiness as predictor of cognitive presence in online higher education. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Walden University, Minnesota.

Online education depends on a variety of technology tools for cognitive-related activities; however, it is unclear whether the current proliferation of tools is an indicator of a learner’s readiness to use them effectively to meet learning objectives. The purpose of this study was to explain the possible relationship between the learner’s technology readiness and cognitive presence—the extent to which members of a technology-based community of inquiry are able to construct meaning—because the effectiveness of the online experience is a measure of a learner’s perception of cognitive presence. Using the community of inquiry framework and the technology readiness index, a sample of 88 online higher education students answered an online survey. The main research question queried if technology readiness was predictive of cognitive presence in online higher education. Use of linear regression indicated that the technology readiness sub-constructs of optimism and innovativeness were significant predictors of cognitive presence but discomfort and insecurity had no predictive effect. Additionally, insecurity predicted the triggering event, optimism predicted exploration, and discomfort predicted resolution. Incorporating the study’s findings into the development, administration, and instruction of online courses may effect positive social change by enhancing students’ technology readiness and cognitive presence in terms of epistemic engagement within a technology-based community of inquiry.

 Hall, J. P. (2013). Is my instructor there for me? A study of reflective practice and student perceptions of online teaching presence (Ph.D.). Capella University, United States — Minnesota. Retrieved from:  Dissertation ProQuestID number: 3568637

As online education continues to expand, colleges are demanding faculty to keep up with the pace and add new online classes. Oftentimes, online instructors rush the course creation process by focusing more on the course content than creating a sense of human presence in the virtual online community of learners. It was theorized that by simply placing content on a website and expecting students to learn without guided facilitation of reflective practice activities was not the most effective way to invoke critical thinking skills in students. The research question was “Is there a statistically significant difference between students’ perceptions regarding the perceived levels of online teaching presence for an instructor who assigns reflective practice activities (lead-in prompts) and an instructor who does not assign reflective practice activities?” The study was a correlational study conducted at a small Northern California community college. Five sections of online courses received the intervention of a reflective lead-in prompt activity within the public discussion area of Blackboard, and four control- group sections did not. The study specifically investigated the students’ perceived levels of online teaching presence after being asked to reflect upon their learning during the course. The study helped to bridge the gap in knowledge regarding college students’ perceptions about an online instructor that used reflective practice activities in online courses and a relationship to an online instructor’s teaching presence. It was confirmed that students in the online classes where there were reflective practice activities, the perceived levels of an online instructor’s teaching presence was statistically significantly higher compared to students in the classes where there were no reflective activities.
Randrianasolo, S. (2013, May). Moving online: Using the community of inquiry framework to redesign English composition for international students. Purdue University.  Retrieved from 

This project focuses on the design of an online version of Purdue University’s English 10600-I, First Year Composition for International Students course. In order to determine the curriculum design approach that would be most likely to lead to student success, a thorough investigation into all relevant aspects of distance education was conducted. This involved approaching the subject matter from both theoretical and pragmatic perspectives. Literature pertaining to the history of distance education, the role of interaction in online learning, and the various categories of online interaction were reviewed. It was found that interaction is an important and necessary element in online learning. Yet, as Garrison and Cleveland-Innes noted in the title of their 2005 article, “interaction is not enough.” Instead, Garrison, Anderson, and Archer proposed the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework as a theoretical basis for distance education environments. At its core is the intersection of three types of online presence: social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence. Each of these three elements is discussed in detail, including how they function both independently and interdependently to create a CoI. Since CoI has been linked to both student satisfaction and success, it was chosen as the theoretical basis for the online version of English 10600-I. It is hoped that the master course developed herein will be piloted by Purdue’s Department of English. If utilized, future English 10600-I instructors could use the curriculum as a framework for their courses, expounding upon it as desired.

Cadle, C. (2013). Effects of using a neuroeducational intervention to enhance perseverance for online EdD and EdS students. Libery University. Retrieved from

Developing and maintaining a “completion mindset” is a necessary mental condition for online educational doctorate (EdD) and educational specialist (EdS) students to obtain their advanced degrees. The purpose of this research study was to examine the effect of a neuroeducational intervention on a volunteer convenience sample of EdD and EdS students enrolled in online research and analysis courses at a private central Virginia university to determine if the intervention would have a positive effect on the level of perseverance through the stages of practical inquiry when compared to a control group. The independent variable was a web-based instructional method consisting of seven weekly multi-media modules, a creativity survey to enhance intrapersonal knowledge, and a weekly self-report instrument to foster relatedness and to protect for treatment fidelity. The four dependent variables were end-of-course grades, a self-determination survey, and two persistence instruments. An experimental posttest, control-group only research design was used to measure the magnitude of the effect for this intervention. The problem addressed by this study was the high attrition rate for online doctoral students, and the potential for using a neuroeducational intervention to positively affect perseverance. Due to the short-term nature of this intervention (seven weeks), perseverance was defined as completion of the practical inquiry cycle; therefore, additional research will be required to explore the longitudinal impact on perseverance related to attrition rates. The null hypotheses were not rejected; however, the means of the treatment group were higher than the control group for all measures except autonomy.

Rodriguez, G. (2013). Perceptions within a virtual community of practice: A Q-method study. Texas State University. Retrieved from

Incorporating people’s values and beliefs into virtual communities is an important component of sustainable communities of practice. The purpose of this study is to better understand the beliefs and perspectives of those virtual community participants who engage in community development in a national network of practitioners. Q-Method, a mixed-methods research design, was utilized to study the subjective opinions of participants within the virtual community of practice. Q-Method was used to identify perspectives on sustainable management and development of a virtual community of practice established by the Community Learning Exchange. Initial interviews, an online questionnaire and literature reviews were conducted to build a concourse of statements. Then, thirty-one participants from the virtual community completed online sorts of the Q-Study cards according to their own beliefs and subjective opinions about virtual communities of practice. Post-sort interviews were also conducted to elicit explanations about participant sorts. The Q-Sorts were factor analyzed to reveal statistical correlations among the participants. Data analysis indicated four statistically significant factors. Data also emerged as to why these participants choose to engage online (or not) in this particular virtual community of practice. Finally, a conceptual framework was used to examine participants’ beliefs about engagement within a virtual community. The findings of this study generate insights into virtual communities of practice and provide researchers, policy makers, and practitioners information about this rapidly expanding field. The study demonstrates the value of Q-Method in characterizing the views of virtual community participants toward online engagement and accommodating these views and beliefs in a virtual community of practice.

Scialdone, M. (2013). Understanding the use and impact of social media features on the educational experiences of higher-education students in blended and distance-learning environments. Abstract available:

Students are increasingly expecting social media to be a component of their educational experiences both outside and inside of the classroom. The phenomenon of interest in this dissertation is understanding how the educational experiences of students are affected when social media are incorporated into online and blended course activities. Qualitative case studies are undertaken toward this end from a Human-Computer Interaction perspective by proposing 4 research questions: (1) How does the use of social media in blended-learning courses impact students’ educational experience? (2) How does the use of social media in online courses impact students’ educational experience? (3) How do specific features of social media impact student experiences inside the physical classroom? (4) How do specific features of social media impact student experiences outside of the physical classroom?

This work is rooted in the theoretical foundations of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework to conceptualize educational experience as defined by the intersection of social, cognitive, and teaching presences. I also draw upon Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST) to conceptualize social media features as technical objects defined through the relationship of functional affordances and symbolic expressions between students and social media.

The findings of the research presented here are based on a total of 9 case studies (5 within a blended context and 4 within an online context) bound by students in Masters-level library science classes at Syracuse University. The results suggest that social presence is clearly the most salient type of presence on social media within blended course contexts, while cognitive and social presence are relatively salient on social media within online course contexts. Two main categories of affordances, timeliness and information curation, emerged as pertinent to students’ educational experiences in blended courses; while both of these, plus multimedia engagement, were identified as relevant to online courses. Technical objects (general features of social media) were identified which facilitate these affordances, and implications based on these are provided in respect to practice (for educators and information technology designers) and theory.