Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

Judy Marquez Kiyama, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Laura Sponsler, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Bridget Arend, Ph.D.


Online and hybrid, Online teaching and learning, Online community


This doctoral research project examines how students and instructors define and build community and ascertains what role community plays in student learning. This research was conducted utilizing a qualitative embedded case study at a private graduate theological school. The theoretical framework of Community of Inquiry (CoI) provided the foundation in which to discover the elements of social, cognitive, and teaching presence in student learning. This project elicited stories that reveal how community is at the center of the learning experience and that community building should be a priority in developing the curriculum. Three main themes emerged about building and sustaining communities in hybrid courses: 1) Faculty engagement, which refers to the instructor’s participation in student learning and growth; 2) The impact of gathering days, which refers to on-campus meetings as a part of the hybrid courses; and 3) the development of a sense of community, which refers to the feeling of being part of a group of people with a common purpose. The foundational conclusion of this study states that when community is prioritized as an essential aspect of the learning experience, students are enthusiastically motivated to learn, especially as it relates to their vocational development. This study demonstrates that students in hybrid courses learn in a robust academic environment, engage vocational relationship skills, and connect to their peers and instructors in meaningful ways.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.

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