Alfred P. Rovai, Michael K. Ponton


Higher education administrators and faculty members seek ways in which to advance student learning in online courses, and student affairs professionals seek ways to promote a sense of belonging and connectedness of students to their schools. The present study examined how a set of three classroom community variables were related to a set of two student learning variables in a predominantly White sample of 108 online African American and Caucasian graduate students. Using canonical correlation, the two subscales of the Classroom Community Scale and the mean number of messages posted each week to the online course’s group discussion boards were found to be related significantly to perceived learning and total points earned in the course along a single dimension. Moreover, African American students scored significantly lower across all five variables than their Caucasian peers, suggesting that the achievement gap that exists in many traditional educational programs also exists in graduate ALN programs and that this gap extends to sense of community.


Sense of Community,Learning,Higher Education,African American,Caucasian

Full Text:



Walts, T., and L. Lewis. Distance education at degree-granting postsecondary institutions: 2000– 2001 (NCES No. 2003-017). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, 2003.

Sikora, A. C., and C. D. Carroll. Postsecondary education descriptive analysis reports (NCES 2003–154). U.S. Depart-ment of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002.

Williams, K., D. Goldstein, and J. Goldstein. Improving the study habits of minority students through Web-based courses. TechTrends 46(2): 21–28, 2002.

Diaz, D. P., and R. B. Cartnal. Student learning in two classes: Online distance learning and equivalent on-campus. Col-lege Teaching 47(4): 130–335, 1999.

Gee, D. G. The impact of students’ preferred learning style variables in a distance education course: A case study. Por-tales, NM: Eastern New Mexico University, 1990. In ERIC – Education Resources Information Center. Identifier number ED 358836.

Irizarry, R. Self-efficacy and motivation effects on online psychology student retention. USDLA Journal 16(12): 55–64, 2002.

Tinto, V. Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Cokley, K. O. What do we know about the motivation of African American students? Challenging

the ‘Anti-Intellectual’ myth. Harvard Educational Review 73(4): 524–558, 2003.

Ogbu, J. U. Understanding cultural diversity and learning. In J. A. Banks & C. A. McGee-Banks (eds.), Handbook of Research on Multicultural Education, 582–593. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 1995.

Bennett, C. I. Comprehensive multicultural education: Theory and practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1986.

Hale-Benson, J. Black Children: Their Roots, Culture and Learning Styles. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1982.

Kuykendall, C. Improving Black Student Achievement by Enhancing Students’ Self Image. Chevy Chase, MD: The Mid-Atlantic Equity Center, 1989.

Shade, B. Afro-American cognitive style: A variable in school success. Review of Educational Research 52(2): 219–244, 1982.

Witkin, H. A., C. A. Moore, D. R. Goodenough, and P. W. Cox. Field-dependent and field-independent cognitive styles and their educational implications. Review of Educational Research 47(1): 1–64, 1977.

Bandura, A. Self-efficacy: The Exercise of Control. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1997.

Bandura, A. Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986.

Pajares, F., and D. H. Schunk. Self-beliefs and school success: Self-efficacy, self-concept, and school achievement. In R. Riding & S. Rayner (eds.), Perception, 239–266. Ablex Publishing: London, 2001.

Sergiovanni, T. J. Building Community in Schools. New York: Jossey-Bass, 1994.

Rheingold, H. The Virtual Community: Homesteading the Electronic Frontier. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1993.

Dede, C. The evolution of distance education: Emerging technologies and distributed learning. The American Journal of Distance Education 10(2): 4–36, 1996.

Wellman, B., and M. Gulia. The network basis of social support: A network is more than the sum of its ties. In B. Well-man (ed.), Networks in the Global Village, , 83–118. Westview Press: Boulder, CO, 1999.

Bryk, A. S., and M. E. Driscoll. The high school as community: Contextual influences and consequences for students and teachers. Madison, Wisconsin: National Center on Effective Secondary Schools, University of Wisconsin, 1988. In ERIC – Education Resources Information Center. Identifier number ED 302539.

Royal, M. A., and R. J. Rossi. Individual-level correlates of sense of community: Findings from workplace and school. Journal of Community Psychology 24(4): 395–416, 1996.

Brookfield, S. D. The Skillful Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990.

Biehler, R. F., and J. Snowman. Psychology Applied to Teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Lave, J., and E. Wenger. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Rogoff, B. Developing understanding of the idea of communities of learners. Mind, Culture, and Activity 1(4): 209–229, 1994.

Wenger, E., R. McDermott, and W. M. Snyder. Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

Baym, N. K. The emergence of community in computer-mediated communication. In S. Jones (ed.), CyberSociety: Com-puter-mediated Communication and Community, 138–163. Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA, 1995.

Donath, J. S. Identity and deception in the virtual community. In M. A. Smith, and P. Kollock (eds.), Communities in Cyberspace, 29–59. Routledge: New York, 1999.

Sproull, L., and S. Kiesler. Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1991.

Palloff, R., and K. Pratt. Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace: Effective Strategies for the Online Slassroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999.

Jonassen, D., M. Davidson, C. Collins, J. Campbell, and B. B. Haag. Constructivism and computer-mediated communi-cation in distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education 9(2): 7–26, 1995.

Grasha, A. F. Teaching with style: The integration of teaching and learning styles in the classroom. Innovator 3(1): 3–4, 1997.

Rovai, A. P. Development of an instrument to measure classroom community. Internet and Higher Education 5(3): 197–211, 2002.

Hiltz, S. R., and B. Wellman. Asynchronous learning networks as a virtual classroom. Communications of the ACM 40(9): 44–49, 1997.

Corrallo, S. The progress of a study identifying the speaking and communication skills of college graduates. In S. Mor-reale and M. Brooks (eds.), 1994 NCA summer conference proceedings and prepared remarks: Assessing college student competency in speech communication. National Communication Association: Annandale, VA, 51–54, 1994.

Richmond, V. P., J. S. Gorham, and J.C McCroskey. The relationship between selected immediacy behaviors and cogni-tive learning. In M. A. McLaughlin (ed.), Communication Yearbook l0, 574–590. Sage: Newbury Park, CA, 1987.

McCroskey, J. C, A. Sallinen, J. M. Fayer, V. P. Richmond, and R. A. Barraclough. Nonverbal immediacy and cognitive learning: A cross-cultural investigation. Communication Education 45(3): 200–211, 1996.

Cohen, J. Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (revised edition). New York: Academic Press, 1977.

Ponton, M. K., and P. B. Carr. Understanding and promoting autonomy in self-directed learning. Current Research in Social Psychology 5(19): 271–284, 2000.

Schwartz, W. Closing the achievement gap: Principles for improving the educational success of all students. New York: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban Education, Identifier number ED 460191, 2000.

Russell, T. L. No significant difference phenomenon. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University, 1999.

Young, J. Scholars question the image of the Internet as a race-free utopia. The Chronicle of Higher Education A48: Sep-tember 28, 2001.

Flannery, D. D. Adult education and the politics of the theoretical text. In B. Kanpol and P. McLaren (eds.), Critical Mul-ticulturalism: Uncommon Voices in a Common StruggleI, 149–163. Bergin and Garvey: Westport, CT, 1995.

Boykin, W. The triple quandary and the schooling of Afro-American children. In U. Neisser (ed.), The School Achieve-ment of Minority Children: New Perspectives, 57–91. Erlbaum: Hillsdale, NJ, 1986.

Hale, J. E. Learning While Black: Creating Educational Excellence for African American Children. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2001.

Treisman, U. A study of the mathematics performance of black students at the University of California, Berkeley. Doctor-al dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, Proquest Digital Dissertations, No. AAT 8610244, 1986.

Williams, K., D. Goldstein, and J. Goldstein. Improving the study habits of minority students through Web-based courses. TechTrends 46(2): 21–28, 2002.

Delpit, L. Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: New Press, 1995.

Ladson-Billings, G. The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers for African American Children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994.

Ford, C. R. Whatever it takes: The experience of African American women doctoral students at a distance learning institu-tion. Doctoral dissertation, Fielding Graduate Institute, Proquest Digital Dissertations, No. AAT 3080220, 2003.


Copyright (c) 2019 Alfred P. Rovai, Michael K. Ponton