Toward a CoI population parameter: The impact of unit (sentence vs. message) on the results of quantitative content analysis


  • Paul Gorsky Open University of Israel
  • Avner Caspi Open University of Israel
  • Ina Blau Open University of Israel
  • Yodfat Vine Open University of Israel
  • Amit Billet Open University of Israel



Higher education, asynchronous forums, protocol analysis, community of inquiry model, quantitative content analysis, syntactic units


The goal of this study is to further corroborate a hypothesized population parameter for the frequencies of social presence versus the sum of teaching presence and cognitive presence as defined by the community of inquiry model in higher education asynchronous course forums. This parameter has been found across five variables: academic institution (distance university vs. campus-based college), academic discipline (exact sciences vs. humanities), academic level (graduate vs. undergraduate), course level (introduction vs. regular vs. advanced), and course size (small vs. medium vs. large), that is, the number of students enrolled. To date, the quantitative content analyses have been carried out using the syntactic unit of message. In an attempt to further establish the parameter’s goodness-of-fit, it is now tested across two different syntactic units, message versus sentence. To do so, the same three-week segments from 15 Open University undergraduate course forums (10 from humanities and five from exact sciences) were analyzed twice—once by the unit message and once by the unit sentence. We found that the hypothesized parameter remained viable when the unit of analysis is the sentence. We also found that the choice of syntactic unit is indeed a critical factor that determines the “content” of the transcript and its inferred meaning.

Author Biography

Paul Gorsky, Open University of Israel

Research Associate and faculty member in the Dept. of Education and Psychology, Open University of Israel



How to Cite

Gorsky, P., Caspi, A., Blau, I., Vine, Y., & Billet, A. (2012). Toward a CoI population parameter: The impact of unit (sentence vs. message) on the results of quantitative content analysis. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(1), 17–37.



Research Articles