Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Paul Englesberg


Basic nursing education is no longer sufficient to meet the escalating demands of today's complex healthcare environment. Recognizing the need for the advanced cognitive skills incurred by these demands, increasing numbers of registered nurses (RNs) have been enrolling in online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs. The problem identified in the RN to BSN degree completion program at a large Midwestern university was the lack of information as to how online teaching and learning strategies were experienced by students. Research has demonstrated that the online community of inquiry (CoI) model facilitates higher order thinking through collaborative learning strategies and the interaction of teaching, social, and cognitive presence. The purpose of this sequential explanatory mixed methods study was to investigate the perceptions of RNs enrolled in the program about a recently completed course utilizing a 34-item CoI survey and semi-structured interviews. The data from 109 completed survey responses were analyzed via descriptive statistics and indicated that student perceptions of social and teaching presence were lower than perceptions of cognitive presence, meaning that the perceived establishment of online relationships and instructor engagement were not as high as were the perceived experiences of higher order thinking. Interviews with 15 purposefully selected students were analyzed for emergent themes and suggested limited online collaboration, which is considered to be fundamental to higher order learning. Based on these findings, a faculty development workshop was designed using the CoI model to encourage collaboration. A potential increase in RN proficiency in higher order thinking fostered by the CoI model will optimize the quality of patient-related decisions, minimize medical errors, and provide the impetus to challenge the status quo in health care.