Development and Validation of the Sense of Online Community Scale




online community, online students, online learning, confirmatory factor analysis, higher education


This study focused on the development and validation of the Sense of Online Community Scale (SOCS), which includes 28 Likert-type scale items across six subscales: (a) program community, (b) program academic activities, (c) program social activities, (d) institutional academic activities, (e) institutional social activities, and (f) affiliation. The validation process included an implementation with 293 learners enrolled in online programs at a higher education institution in the eastern United States. The model was evaluated with and without outliers, and results show that the model aligned well with the SOCS. The means of all items except one exceeded 3.5 on a 5.0 scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Time in an online program was not a statistically significant predictor of the validation model, though most of our participants were in the first or second year of their degree programs. Findings demonstrate that the SOCS is a reliable and valid instrument that other researchers may use to investigate community in online environments on both the program and the institutional level.

Author Biographies

Craig E. Shepherd, University of Memphis

Craig E. Shepherd is an associate professor of instructional design and technology at the University of Memphis. His research interests focus on the use of technology to foster knowledge acquisition and community in formal and informal settings.

Doris U. Bolliger

Doris U. Bolliger retired after serving in higher education for over 20 years. Her primary research interests are faculty and student satisfaction, communication, community, engagement, and interaction in the online environment. Her secondary research interests include the utilization of mobile technologies in informal learning environments.

Courtney McKim, University of Wyoming

Courtney McKim is a professor of educational research at the University of Wyoming. Her research interest focuses on the use of various methodologies. She teachers quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research courses.


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How to Cite

Shepherd, C. E., Bolliger, D. U., & McKim, C. (2023). Development and Validation of the Sense of Online Community Scale. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 24(4), 214–232.



Research Articles