Perceptions of Quality Among Undergraduate Students in Online Courses: A Community of Inquiry Framework Approach to Quality in Higher Education

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Virginia Tech


The COVID-19 pandemic, known as the coronavirus, was declared as a national pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020 (Cucinotta and Vanelli, 2020). Following the declaration of a national pandemic, institutions across society were forced to respond. Among those most immediately impacted, were colleges and universities. Higher education faculty and administrators transitioned in-person courses to an online format to adjust to the restrictions of coronavirus. As a result, college students around the world experienced a sudden shift to taking an entire semester of courses in an unfamiliar online format. The pandemic served as a catalyst to a trend over the last 2 years to provide access to a growing number of online courses. Given this drastic change and the unprecedented future of higher education during uncertain times, it was imperative to further study the nature of quality in online courses. While research on quality in higher education is extensive, a significant gap in literature exists related to students' perspectives of quality, particularly in online courses. To address this gap, I used the Community of Inquiry framework (CoI) (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2000) and related survey to explore aspects that contribute to perceptions of online education quality. The study investigated how undergraduate students at a large public research institution perceived the importance of elements of the CoI Framework. The data analyses included independent sample t tests, one-way ANOVAs, and regression. The results revealed that course pedagogy does affect students' perceptions of online quality. However, student characteristics do not affect students' perceptions of quality for online courses in Higher Education.



Community of Inquiry Framework, Quality, Higher Education, Student perceptions