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School Climate and Sense of Class


In recent times, online education has increasingly become an alternative instructional method to the traditional method of attending physical classes. Although the online instruction method seems a better alternative, a series of disadvantages have occurred from this method, especially in the perception of the online students’ sense of community and interactions with school activities. Unlike those attending in the traditional setting who have a great sense of community and high involvement with school activities, online students miss this crucial element. The study thus sought to compare the possibility of students having a high attachment to the university depending on the instructional method that they were using.

Keywords: traditional learning, online learning, sense of connection


The aim of the study was to understand the differences between university students enrolled in online classes and those enrolled in physical classes on their perception of learning and a sense of connection with the university and their instructional setting.

The hypothesis established in the study is that social constructivism employed in virtual and physical classes (independent variable) leads to comparable academic outcomes and the perceptions of classroom community while at the same time understanding the differences in the students’ sense of school community (dependent variable). Additionally, significant variances are noted between virtual students and those attending physical classes, thus being mentioned as a likely confounding variable. This mainly occurs from the students’ age differences, life experiences, and level of education (Rovai et al., 2005).


The research design that was employed in this study is the causal-comparative design model. This is the appropriate research design to understand the impact of the learning environment, either virtual or physical, on the students’ perceptions of their learning and their sense of connection within the class and university communities. The research design is further effective in identifying the variances among the different subcategories, thus further understanding the students’ perception of their instructional setting and, lastly, understanding the differences between graduate and undergraduate students.

On the other hand, the sampling method used for this study was convenience sampling, where 279 students undertaking their graduate and undergraduate studies were taken from two universities in Virginia. The selected students were either preparing for an educational career or working in the education field, and two hundred fifty students, which is 83.3% of the chosen sample, decided to complete the survey towards the end of their course (Rovai et al., 2005). To enhance internal validity, the authors had to select participants who were enrolled in courses that pertained to the education field.

Additionally, the instruments used to complete the research are The Classroom and School Community Inventory (CSCI) and a Self-Report Instrument. Starting with the CSCI uses the Likert scale having 5-points to measure the students’ perceptions regarding the learning and social community in the classroom and the school. On the other hand, a self–reporting instrument utilized the understanding of the students’ perception of learning, where participants responded on a scale of zero to nine, responding on the level of meaningful learning that they saw in the course (Rovai et al., 2005).

Reflecting on the replication of the data, there are several elements concerning the procedure used in the study, thus making it easy to be replicated a good example of this is Rovai et al. (2005) offer reliable instruments that can be later utilized for replication of the study and further offering an easy time in distributing surveys and data collection. Similarly, the use of adult study participants drawn from universities makes it easy for future individuals who seek to perform a similar study, as getting this sample of individuals to be used in the study is very easy. Lastly, Rovai and colleagues (2005) offered supporting research and a detailed description of the statistical analyses that were employed in the study.

To analyze the data of this causal-comparative study, Rovai et al. (2005) used the MANOVA, also referred to as the multivariate analysis of variance, which is a statistical method used to test the hypothesis whenever one has both numerical and categorical variables or multiple dependent variables. Using the MANOVA analysis helps to measure the treatment effect that happens across many dependent variables. The reason for the use of the MANOVA statistical analysis helps the author to get the ability to the variances between the two groups since the MANOVA shows significant differences in course delivery methods and student perceptions.

The study reaches to the conclusion that the collaborative nature of social constructivism used in both virtual and physical classes can translate to comparable academic conclusions and the perceptions of the classroom community while at the same time showing the differences in the students’ sense of school community. This makes the null hypothesis to be as follows; there exist no obvious differences regarding the sense of community between the virtual and face-to-face students. But since the collected data in the study indicated that online students feel a weak sense of community interaction when compared to on-campus students, the researchers can easily reject the null.

The authors in the study confirm the presence of limitations in the study sample drawn from the two universities in Virginia and call for further study that is required to support this theory. The authors further indicated that educators are on the verge of coming up with a viable way to improve the student-institution relation, engage students attending studies via the virtual setting with the school community and increase the part of community in the online classes. Rovai et al. (2005) offer the best way to do this and propose a series of actions to facilitate this, which include having blended learning programs, cohort groups, responsive pedagogy outlining academic support opportunities, and increased opportunities for interaction with students’ affairs such as volunteering and taking student leadership roles. The increased student integration into the school communities will result in a great institutional commitment and student persistence, as long as perceived learning is held constant between the on-campus and online students, but additional research is further needed the confirmation this hypothesis.


In a nutshell, it is evident that physical or traditional classes are both critical as a means to gain knowledge in the university setting. However, students attending online classes are more likely to feel withdrawn from their actual participation in the many issues happening in the university due to the lack of physical contact. However, there exist multiple ways in which the students’ participation can be improved, and this includes ensuring that the students are made to participate in co-curricular activities or encouraged to undertake key positions in the student leadership, thus increasing their sense of well-being to the university.


Rovai, A. P., Wighting, M. J., & Liu, J. (2005). School climate. Quarterly Review of

Distance Education, 6(4). Retrieved from


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