Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Michael M. Williamson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Mauriello

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Nicholas Mauriello


This study was a cross-case comparison analysis of paired case studies of instructors and students in five first-year online college composition courses at a community college. The purpose of the study was to learn about “community” in these courses and the effects of community on the students' writing. Specifically, the study documented and discussed the instructors' beliefs, perspectives, policies, and practices concerning community in their online writing classes; the study also documented and discussed students' beliefs, perspectives, and experiences concerning community in their online classes. Each of the five online courses was observed from start to finish, and the study also analyzed the students' participation in the course communities and the writing they produced for the courses. A series of in-depth interviews with each pair of participants, along with observations of the courses and analyses of written artifacts from the various courses were the primary sources of data. The key findings of this study were: the prevalence of social constructivist theory and pedagogy in online writing courses; the necessity of policy and accountability in successfully building community; the theoretical versus practical value of community in the online writing course; the limited role of community when influencing students' writing; and the disparities between instructors' intentions and students' experiences of community.