Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department or School

Leadership and Counseling

Committee Member

David Anderson, Ed.D, Chair

Committee Member

James Berry, Ed.D

Committee Member

Carol Haddad, Ph.D

Committee Member

Eboni Zamani-Gallaher, Ph.D


Colleges and universities are providing access to a broad range of students through online courses. With the increase of enrollment and demand, it is necessary to better comprehend the role and relationship of the tools available within those courses. The primary purpose of this research effort was to explore the factors that affect the overall perceived student sense of community in a threaded discussion aspect of a fully online course delivered at the university level. The researcher investigated compiled through structural equation modeling path analysis with 10 independent variables and perceived sense of community as the single dependent variable. Both the measurement model, defined by the theoretical framework, and structural model were confirmed for goodness of fit. The data indicated that statistically significant positive relationships existed between age, task complexity level, and sense of community. Interaction effects between age and complexity level were discovered and tested to find the task complexity for younger students had the relationships of social ability, student demographics, task complexity, motivation, and student perceived sense of community within the online classroom. The expectation was that these factors would have a relationship with overall sense of community. Samples of participants from two small universities were chosen to take a five-part survey over a two-month period. The results from 229 participants are a positive relationship with overall perceived sense of community. Significant negative relationships existed between social ability, postsecondary level and sense of community. The other variables of gender and student motivation were not found to be statistically significant, but this lack of significance provides interesting implications for theory and research. Further research pertaining to online course tools, tasks behind online discussion forums, and student expectations should be conducted.