Norman, D. (2013). A Case Study Using the Community of Inquiry Framework to Analyze Online Discussions in WordPress and Blackboard in a Graduate Course. (Master’s thesis, University of Calgary). Retrieved from

TL;DR: students basically did what teacher asked them to do, without really caring what platform they were using.


Online discussions in a graduate level education course were compared using the Community of Inquiry framework and a Classroom Community survey within a mixed methods case study with concurrent triangulation of data sources. Discussion posts were published in two separate software applications: WordPress and Blackboard. Data collected included online discussion metadata, Community of Inquiry coding of online discussion content, survey responses from students, and an interview with the instructor to identify pedagogical decisions made in the design of the course. Content analysis of the discussion archives described differences in posts published to the two platforms, as well as differences in simultaneous indications of Community of Inquiry presences over time. Five new online discussion timeline visualization methods are presented. Key findings include an emphasis on pedagogical design over software selection in facilitating rich online discussions in the context of a graduate level course, although selection of software may provide signals to participants regarding the instructor’s expectations. Recommendations for reproducing similar research, identification of areas for future research, and recommendations for practice are provided.

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Key Figures

Figure 2.1 - thesis concept map.png

Figure 2.1. Connections between concepts used in this research.

Figure 4.3 - combined discussion posts timeline 2.png

Figure 4.3. Timeline of posting activity by day of course, for WordPress and Blackboard discussions (official course period in grey).

Figure 4.5 - Online Discussion activity in WordPress.png

Figure 4.5. Online discussion activity in WordPress (official course period indicated in grey).

Figure 4.6 - Online discussion activity in Blackboard.png

Figure 4.6. Online discussion activity in Blackboard (official course period indicated in grey).

Figure 4.13 WordPress CoI Presences Timeline.png

Figure 4.13. Community of Inquiry presence indications in WordPress discussion posts by day of course (official course period indicated in grey).

Figure 4.14 - Blackboard CoI Presences timeline.png

Figure 4.14. Community of Inquiry presence indications in Blackboard discussion posts, by day of course (official course period indicated in grey).

Figure 4.15 - simultaneous CoI presences.png

Figure 4.15. Number of simultaneous presences shown across all posts per day in WordPress vs. Blackboard (official course period indicated in grey).