Creating a Community of Inquiry in Large-Enrollment Online Courses: An Exploratory Study on the Effect of Protocols within Online Discussions


  • Baiyun Chen
  • Aimee deNoyelles
  • Janet Zydney
  • Kerry Patton



Community of Inquiry, large classes, online discussions, protocols


It can be difficult to foster focused and effective communication in online discussions within large classes. Implementing protocols is a strategy that may help students communicate more effectively, facilitate their learning process, and improve the quality of their work within online discussions. In this exploratory research study, a protocol was developed and improved over two iterations in a very large undergraduate video-streaming business course (N1=412; N2=450). The discussion instructions were consolidated and adjusted, and design elements such as a grading rubric, exemplary student samples, and due date reminders were added in the second iteration. There were higher perceptions of social, cognitive, and teaching presences in the second iteration, as well as significantly more group cognition within the discussion measured through a Community of Inquiry coding template. Findings suggest that protocols are a potentially useful strategy to manage online discussions in large classes.



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Students, Community, and Online Learning