Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Susanna Thornhill, PhD

Second Advisor

Scot Headley, PhD

Third Advisor

Karen Buchanan, EdD


The purpose of this study was to describe how Hispanic women experience emotional and social presence in a fully-online program, as described within the Community of Inquiry framework. It focused on how participants articulated what it felt like to be their real selves during online learning experiences. This multiple case study consisted of a series of two individual interviews with three participants. The first phase of data analysis consisted of observational and theoretical memos, which focused on how participants described their emotional and social presence related to curriculum content, structure, or format. This was followed by a within-case and cross-case analysis to derive themes. Three findings emerged as elements that significantly affected participants’ ability to be themselves. They included a) the ways professors honored students’ assets, b) open access to other students/cohort and the instructor, and c) consistency in course design and facilitation. Course content and classmates minimally impacted the participants' ability to be their real selves during learning; the instructor was the single most influential factor in the social and emotional presence experienced. Implications for future practice, including recommendations for online instructors and universities who offer online courses, indicate the importance of honoring students’ assets, open access to instructors, and intentional course design and facilitation.