Andy Conrad

Date of Award

Summer 2003

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Educational Technology (MESET)

First Advisor

Mark L. Hawkes

Second Advisor

Hoamin Wang


The extent to which students learn subject material is based upon the richness of discourse and presence that are introduced into the learning situation. It is important to determine the significance of discourse and presence in the online environment. Discourse is the foundation of any learning experience by which pertinent ideas in subject matter are communicated to the learner. The primary intent of discourse is to enhance the perspective of the learner within a specific topic or area of study, although how discourse is handled is determined by the individual. Regardless of medium, discourse is a natural requirement, and the key to successful discourse is active participation. In examining presence, a model developed by Anderson and colleagues called the Community of Inquiry states that the ideal educational experience for online learners exists when balance is achieved among social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence. The dichotomy of the variations of these interactions and how they are instrumental in the learning process inspired this study.

A survey to identify key concepts of the Community of Inquiry model relating to discourse, social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence was administered to 121 graduate students who had participated in at least one online course. The results indicated that students were satisfied with their online learning experience and felt that discourse and presence played an important part in that experience.