Motivated, Engaged, and Successful-Oh My! Influencing Graduate Students through a Community of Inquiry

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Your efforts as an instructor make a difference! Hear what graduate students are saying about the influence their instructors have on their motivation and success. Participants in this Discovery Session share and discover practical ways to enhance communication and interaction with students in the online learning environment.


Dr. Amy Rogers is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Ashford University. She earned her undergraduate degrees from Central Washington University in both Elementary Education and Special Education and holds dual certificates in the state of Arizona where she has lived and worked since 2003. She holds a Master Degree in Professional Development from Heritage University (WA) and earned her Doctorate in Leadership and Innovations from Arizona State University in 2009. Prior to her full time position with Ashford University, Amy gained over 16 years of educational experience serving a variety of roles including that of high school special educator, K-8 Master Teacher, instructional coach, and university instructor. Amy’s passion is to 'grow' new teachers, retain, and 'nurture' veteran teachers by sparking new interest and efficacy through their own professional growth. Amy's areas of interest, expertise and research center on issues pertaining to pedagogy and andragogy, curriculum and instruction design (UdL, UbD in particular), co-teaching, special education/learning disabilities, teacher efficacy, educational technology, and community of inquiry (CoI).
Dr. Kelly Stewart is the Program Chair of the Master of Arts in Education (MAED) and Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Ashford University. She earned a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership and Innovation with a specialization in Curriculum and Policy from Arizona State University, a Master of Education with a specialization in Educational Technology from Arizona State University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with an endorsement in K-12 Reading from Indiana University. Dr. Stewart started her twenty year education career as an EL teacher and middle school teacher, as well as K-12 reading interventionist. She also taught TV Studio and launched the schools’ drama program, along with coaching cheerleading. During this time, Dr. Stewart got engaged with brain research and its application to the classroom. She was asked to conduct professional development for teachers and was thrilled to find joy and purpose in working with teachers, as well as students. For the past ten years, Kelly has worked as a staff developer, coach, adjunct professor, consultant, and district administrator. Her passion and focus has been on working with beginning teachers, developing sustainable systems for support, and mentoring programs. Her area of research has been around recruitment and retention as teacher shortage concerns and retaining the best teachers for students continues to be a challenge around the country and even across the world, specifically in Britain and Australia. Her most recent area of research is around supporting online associate faculty.

Extended Abstract

While online learning environments proliferate the 21st century, the relationship between student and instructor still serves as the foundation of student academic success and overall satisfaction with their learning experience. The heart of any institution of higher learning is the learning environment itself and the instructors who facilitate learning. By using the built-in technology of the online learning environment as well as a Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, instructors have numerous ways to communicate with students and employ innovative instructional strategies, having a tremendous impact on student motivation, success and retention.

It is no secret that higher education institutions across the country are faced with issues related to student retention. Institutions like Ashford University focus a great deal of energy on finding effective ways to prepare and support students through a variety of interventions and resources. Data concerning the quality of a student’s overall learning experience tends to be collected near the end of a course using an End of Course Survey (EOCS). While feedback regarding the institution, course, and instructor is collected, the data is useful for influencing subsequent courses and may not necessarily allow the instructor to immediately adjust his or her practices or directly influence current students. Thus, it is possible that more qualitative, formative opportunities throughout the duration of a given course may yield more specific student data regarding the day-to-day interactions and practices of the instructor that encourage and support a positive relationship with their students, thereby potentially supporting student retention efforts.

Early survey results are shared from graduate students participating in a collaborative study currently in progress in the College of Education at Ashford University. The survey reveals students’ perceptions of their relationship with their instructors and the influence that relationship has on their overall motivation and success. Specific insight regarding instructor’s teaching, social, and cognitive presence are explored and shared. While the featured study focuses on higher education, session participants, whether novice or expert from any institution type would find relevancy in the topic of instructional and communication best practices, specifically, practices following the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework.  

Participants in this Discovery Session not only gain valuable insight regarding instructor influence on student motivation and success, but also contribute to the session by engaging in interactive questions and answers pertaining to their own knowledge and experiences as a learner or teacher. Attendees should come prepared with their own mobile device to interact with and gain from the live digital feedback opportunity.Session participants’ input may be considered for a follow-up cycle of the study.

Session Goals

  • Participants will discover how the online instructor’s presence, communication, and instruction influence student motivation and academic success.
  • Participants will be inspired to enhance their own instructional practice using at least one new or varied approach under the Community of Inquiry Framework (Teacher Presence, Social Presence, Cognitive Presence).