A Construct Revalidation of the Community of Inquiry Survey: Empirical Evidence for a General Factor Under a Bifactor Structure

  • Hongwei Yang, Ph.D. University of West Florida
  • Jian Su, Ph.D. University of Tennessee
Keywords: community of inquiry, teaching presence, social presence, cognitive presence, bifactor model, construct revalidation


The study revisited the community of inquiry (CoI) instrument for construct revalidation. To that end, the study used confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to examine four competing models (unidimensional, correlated-factor, second-order factor, and bifactor models) on model fit statistics computed using parameter estimates from a statistical estimator for ordinal categorical data. The CFA identified as the optimal structure the bifactor model where all items loaded on their intended domains and the existence of the general factor was supported, essentially evidence of construct validity for the instrument. The study further examined the bifactor model using mostly model-based reliability measures. The findings confirmed the contributions of the general factor to the reliability of instrument scores. The study concluded with validity and reliability evidence for the bifactor model, supported the model as a valid and reliable representation of the CoI instrument and a fuller representation of the CoI theoretical framework, and recommended its use in CoI-related research and practice in online education.

Author Biographies

Hongwei Yang, Ph.D., University of West Florida

Hongwei Yang, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the School of Education, College of Education and Professional Studies at the University of West Florida. His scholarship is found in online teaching and learning, family science, human and animal medical care, survey research, quantitative methodology, and psychometrics.

Jian Su, Ph.D., University of Tennessee

Jian Su, Ph.D. is an Instructional Designer/Developer in the Office of Online Learning and Academic Programs at the University of Tennessee. Her research interests include online teaching and learning, Open Educational Resources, and digital distractions.


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How to Cite
Yang, Ph.D., H., & Su, Ph.D., J. (2021). A Construct Revalidation of the Community of Inquiry Survey: Empirical Evidence for a General Factor Under a Bifactor Structure. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(4), 22-40. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v22i4.5587
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