Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Charles S. Hausman

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Second Advisor

Bill Phillips

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Third Advisor

Norman W. Powell

Department Affiliation

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


As a result of rapid growth in distance education, increasingly more students are enrolling in online courses. Nearly 81% of all U.S. postsecondary institutions offered “at least one fully online or blended course” in 2003 (Jones & Davenport, 2018). Previous research has demonstrated African American students site “convenience” as an influence in enrolling in an online course (Kwun et al., 2012). While online learning offers benefits to both institutions and students (Anderson, 2008), research has also found students may exhibit stress and anxiety as a result of isolation and loneliness caused by distance learning (Duranton & Mason, 2012; Heinman, 2008; Kim, 2011; Muirhead & Blum, 2006). Additional research found online students at HBCUs preferred face-to-face, traditional courses over online delivery and hybrid modalities due to teaching quality and communication difficulty between the teacher and student (Kwun et al., 2012). These tensions are eased when instructors practice social support through the building of community. This explanation, referred to in the literature as Community of Inquiry, or CoI (Garrett et al., 2010), attributes online student success through Social Support Theory (Albrecht & Adelman, 1987). The theory is defined as the verbal and non-verbal communication between recipients and providers that reduces uncertainty about the situation, the self, the other, or the relationship, and functions to enhance a perception of personal control in one’s life experience (Albrecht & Adelman, 1987). There is a lack of research focused on instructor social support and its effect on online student academic success at HBCUs.

The purpose of this quantitative non-experimental study is to ascertain if online instructor social support is significantly related to online student academic performance at a Southwestern HBCU. A construct of CoI and grounded in Social Support Theory was used to interpret the results. This study examined three instructor social support predictor variables of the dependent variable, student expected grade. Using a sample taken from the site location, frequency analyses, descriptive statistics, Pearson bivariate analysis, and multiple regression analysis, the research questions posited by this study were answered. Findings provide further evidence of the impact of instructor emotional and informational social support on online student perceived expected grade. Results also indicate instructor instrumental social support was not significant as a determinate of student academic performance. These findings have practical implications and recommendations for higher education distance learning policies and professional development strategies for HBCUs that offer online courses and degrees.