The number of online courses in higher education is on the rise; however, empirical evidence elucidating best practices for synchronous online instruction is needed to implement these courses. The purpose of this dissertation was to perform a mixed-method investigation into the relationships between instructor prompt and student engagement in 5 areas based on the 7 Principles of Good Practices in Undergraduate Education using recorded chat, video, and audio transcripts of two recent fully online nutrition courses. A total of 25 previously recorded synchronous sessions including oral and textual chat interactions were transcribed. Every line of student interaction was determined to be either superficial or containing evidence of at least one instance of engagement. Every line of instructor interaction was concurrently coded for at least one of the following forms of prompt: social, organizational, intellectual. Inter-tester reliability of coded interactions was determined to be excellent (Cohen's kappa = 0.91) on a 5% sample of the entire dataset before comprehensive analysis continued. In total, 172,380 words were exchanged through 13,394 oral and text interactions across all class sessions. With 54% of student interactions deemed superficial the remainder produced a total of 8,906 student engagements. There were 4,125 instructor prompts composed of 48% intellectual, 30% organizational, and 22% social cues. Pearson correlations were performed to investigate relationships between prompt and engagement across class sessions. Intellectual prompts were the best predictor of faculty interactions, active and collaborative learning, and academic challenge (r=0.77, r=0.78, r=0.54 respectively); organizational prompts were the best predictor of enriching academic experiences (r=0.72); and social prompts were the best predictor of supportive campus environments (r=0.79) with all of these being significant (p<0.01). No category of engagement was significantly correlated to class performance. Online synchronous class sessions can promote high levels of student engagement. A variety of instructor prompts must be used in order to promote student engagement across a number of different categories. Finally, care should be taken in order to craft and facilitate learning activities in synchronous online class sessions in order to achieve desired learning outcomes.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational technology; Distance education; Computer-assisted instruction; Education, Higher -- United States; Teaching -- Methodology

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Sparks, Paul;