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Interactive class design and sense of community in online distance education classes: A mixed methods research study

Janet Lear, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this mixed methods study was to explore the relationship between a student’s perception of sense of community and the student’s perception of the interactivity of the class. An interactivity/sense of community process model was developed. The student’s perceptions of sense of community as related to the elements within the rubric were also analyzed. ^ Students (n=241) enrolled in online classes at four Midwestern post-secondary institutions were surveyed to determine if a relationship existed between sense of community and class interactivity. The survey instrument included both the Rovai Classroom Community Scale (CCS) and the Roblyer Rubric for Assessing Interactive Qualities in Distance Courses. After the quantitative survey was completed, selected students were interviewed to determine if students’ perceived sense of community contributed to their learning. ^ The Phase 1 quantitative survey (n=241) revealed a correlation between sense of community and class interactivity, r=.61. The data also suggested that the instructor elements with the most impact were Instructional Designs for Interaction and Evidence of Instructor Engagement. A relationship between the Evidence of Student Engagement rubric element and the CCS was also found, r=.557. A three-way ANOVA then compared the CCS scores based on gender, online experience, and degree status. A significant interaction was found for degree status and experience; however, the effect size was small. ^ During Phase 2, selected students (n=42) were interviewed to determine if they perceived that sense of community was important and how it impacted their learning. Comfort, belonging/connectedness, and trust were the three dominant themes; 74% of the students agreed that sense of community was important. The major themes for how community impacted students’ learning were stimulates/expands thinking and helps with understanding. The instructor was mentioned by 81% of the students, either individually or in conjunction with content and/or other students, as a major factor in helping students to develop community. ^

Subject Area

Education, Technology of|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Lear, Janet, "Interactive class design and sense of community in online distance education classes: A mixed methods research study" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3321124.