Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education

First Advisor

Karen Buchanan, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Ginny Birky, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Susanna Steeg, Ph.D.


This study sought to explore the relationship between the elements of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework and graduate-level students’ perceived educational experience. Further, it sought to determine if these elements, which include social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence, could be used to determine the likelihood of program retention. The quantitative study surveyed 384 graduate-level students from 10 programs at a small, Christian university. Using the CoI framework as a theoretical basis, this study used factor analysis to validate the CoI survey designed by Arbaugh et al. (2008), multiple regression to determine the relationship between social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence to educational experience, and a logistic regression to determine if these elements were predictors of program retention. The analysis found a positive relationship between each element of the CoI framework and students’ perceived educational experiences. Logistic regression analysis revealed that a statistically significant model was created, however the amount of variance indicated that it was not useful to correlate the CoI elements with the likelihood of program retention. The results underscore the importance of fostering social, cognitive, and teaching presence in online and hybrid programs, as each element contributes positively to students perceived educational experience. This study may be used to inform future research regarding graduate-level students’ educational experience and the complex nature of graduate-level online retention.