Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Hsu, Pi-Sui

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment


Educational technology; Distance education--Effect of technological innovations on--Case studies; Web-based instruction--Case studies; Internet in education--Case studies; Computer-assisted instruction--Study and teaching (Higher)--Case studies; Universities and colleges--Graduate work--Effect of technological innovations on--Case studies


This comparative case study utilizes the lens of the Community of Inquiry framework to provide a holistic view of the dynamics of interactions in two class sections of a graduate-level online course. Relationships between teaching and cognitive presence are examined through content analysis of student and instructor contributions in both the discussion board and material outside of the discussion board, as well as through participant perceptions using the CoI survey and interviews. Content analysis data revealed that students in both groups had similar levels and types of teaching presence, while the instructors had very different levels and types of teaching presence. Although one instructor had more than three times the content as the other, the levels of cognitive presence in the discussion board were similar in both groups, with most of the posts at the integration phase. However, the specificity of content-analysis data at the indicator level revealed that although most posts were at the integration phase, students engaged in little problem solving or hypothesis building. Less than one percent of all student posts, contributed by three of the twelve students, were at the resolution phase. Inclusion of a student paper in content analysis revealed that seven students reached the resolution phase, although no student reached resolution in both the discussion board and the paper. Identical pre-course design and organization elements for both groups suggest that design may lead students to a certain level, but a qualitative factor (i.e., the timing of instructor participation, the composition of the posts, or both) may have more influence than the quantity of posts in moving students toward problem solving. Perception data revealed that more students perceive reaching the resolution phase than the content-analysis data suggest. Similarly, different indicators within teaching presence categories had different relationships to phases of cognitive presence. The study suggests the quality of instructor teaching presence posts is more important than the quantity and that the quality of student cognitive presence posts is more revealing than quantities. Reporting of data at the category or phase level may be misleading, and reporting at the indicator level may provide the most constructive information for instructors, instructional designers, and researchers to use in maximizing the capacity of an online course to promote students' higher order thinking.


Advisors: Pi Sui Hsu.||Committee members: Rebecca Hunt; Thomas Smith.


306 pages




Northern Illinois University

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