Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Margaret Maxwell (Director), Dr. James Berger, Dr. Lauren Bland, Dr. Nedra Atwell

Degree Program

Educational Leadership Doctoral Program

Degree Type

Doctor of Education


This non-experimental quantitative descriptive study was designed to determine which types of learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction are most predictive of student sense of community in online graduate courses at a regional comprehensive university. Surveys were used to measure sense of community and to collect perceptions of frequency and importance of nine learner-learner interactions and seven learner instructor interactions from participating students (N = 381) within online courses in which they were enrolled. Student demographic information included age, gender, experience with online learning, number of face-to-face class meetings, and employment status.

Results indicated that learner–learner interactions that were most predictive of sense of community were introductions, collaborative group projects, contributingpersonal experiences, entire class online discussions, and exchanging resources. Learner-instructor interactions that were most predictive of sense of community were instructor modeling, support and encouragement, facilitating discussions, multiple modes of communication, and required participation. Experience with online learning was contributive to sense of community.

Additional analyses identified which interaction types offer the highest yield to the instructor who seeks to efficiently facilitate sense of community. Results were presented using a matrix that placed interaction types into low frequency/low importance, low frequency/high importance, high frequency/low importance, or high frequency/high importance quadrants. The interaction items offering the highest yield were exchanging resources and instructor modeling. Implications for practice were provided to guide online instructors in facilitating the development of sense of community in online courses.


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