School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Counselor Education and Supervision (PhD)


Fred Volk


Online Education, Community of Inquiry, Program Evaluation


Counseling | Education | Higher Education


Online education is becoming increasingly prevalent in higher education with many students and educators accepting its use. Because of the ubiquity of online education and the growth of technology in recent decades, it is important for educators to use educational methods that maximize the potential quality of online education. The Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework is a model of online education that emphasizes the importance of the learning community in the educational process. The CoI posits that effective learning environments must have strong cognitive, social, and teaching presences. There is numerous research that supports the use of the CoI in online learning environments. The purpose of the present research is to develop and validate an instrument, the Community of Inquiry Program-Level Inventory (CPI), for assessing the CoI in online academic programs. Students enrolled in online graduate degree programs completed the CPI and other measures in an online survey. Exploratory factor analysis revealed a four-factor model, and confirmatory factor analysis showed a good model fit with four factors. The subscales for the cognitive presence and social presence each emerged as single factors. The subscale for the teaching presence was divided into two distinct factors with items relating to instructional design in one factor and items relating to facilitating discourse and direct instruction in a second factor. These findings contribute to the research literature on the CoI and highlight the importance of the CoI in online academic programs.