Toward a CoI population parameter: The impact of unit (sentence vs. message) on the results of quantitative content analysis

Paul Gorsky, Avner Caspi, Ina Blau, Yodfat Vine, Amit Billet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The goal of this study is to further corroborate a hypothesized population parameter for the frequencies of social presence versus the sum of teaching presence and cognitive presence as defined by the community of inquiry model in higher education asynchronous course forums. This parameter has been found across five variables: academic institution (distance university vs. campus-based college), academic discipline (exact sciences vs. humanities), academic level (graduate vs. undergraduate), course level (introduction vs. regular vs. advanced), and course size (small vs. medium vs. large), that is, the number of students enrolled. To date, the quantitative content analyses have been carried out using the syntactic unit of message. In an attempt to further establish the parameter's goodness-of-fit, it is now tested across two different syntactic units, message versus sentence. To do so, the same three-week segments from 15 Open University undergraduate course forums (10 from humanities and five from exact sciences) were analyzed twice-once by the unit message and once by the unit sentence. We found that the hypothesized parameter remained viable when the unit of analysis is the sentence. We also found that the choice of syntactic unit is indeed a critical factor that determines the "content" of the transcript and its inferred meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-37
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2012


  • Asynchronous forums
  • Community of inquiry model
  • Higher education
  • Protocol analysis
  • Quantitative content analysis
  • Syntactic units


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