School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Kristy Motte


Online Elementary Education, K-12 Online Education, Virtual Education, Community of Inquiry, COVID-19 Education, Best Practices in Online Elementary Education


Education | Educational Methods


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand the shared experiences of teachers who have established presence in online classrooms after transitioning from face-to-face to online elementary classrooms in a virtual program developed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The theory guiding this study was the community of inquiry (CoI) framework, developed by Garrison et al., as it specifically relates to distance and online learning and provides a context for research. In this qualitative study, data was collected through interviews, documentation, and a focus group with 11 online teachers (OT) representing several grade levels in an online program. Data was analyzed using a phenomenological process outlined by Moustakas and by employing open, axial, and selective coding to organize themes throughout the study. The setting of this study was an online program located in the southeastern U.S. Findings showed the importance of student-to-teacher and student-to-student relationships as well as providing professional development to OT that is relevant to online classrooms. A major finding of the study was that online classrooms can be as effective or more effective than face-to-face classrooms when best practices are implemented and presence has been established.