Graduation Year


Document Type


Degree Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)


Occupational Therapy


Background: Due to COVID 19, there has been an increase in opportunities for online learning due to the reduction of in-person trainings. As occupational therapist practitioners, we have a responsibility to complete our professional continuing education and maintain our skills proficiently, whether those trainings are in-person or virtually. Therefore, the effectiveness and quality of professional training should not decrease when the delivery system is switched from in person to online.

Purpose: This study addressed professional continuing education for occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and Pre-K thru 5th grade teachers in a virtual environment. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the cognitive, social, and teaching presence in virtual Learning Without Tears professional development workshops. The second objective was to discover if there was any statistical difference between the demographic variables and the cognitive, social, and teaching presences of the Community of Inquiry (CoI) in the Learning Without Tears virtual continuing education workshops.

Theoretical Framework: The study was guided by the Community of Inquiry framework which assists with evaluating instructional design, learning experiences, and interaction in online and distance education. It was also guided by Social Constructivism which is the way groups of people make meaning of learning experiences and interactions.

Methods: A cross sectional quantitative, post course survey design was used in this research project. The community of inquiry survey was used to evaluate the cognitive, social, and teaching presences during a continuing education experience. The survey plus demographic questions were emailed to all participants of Learning Without Tears virtual workshops at the conclusion of the workshops from April 2021 until September 2021.

Results: The post workshop survey was sent to approximately 2,000 people with a nine percent return rate. There were 141 participants that completed the entire survey. The results indicated that teaching presence was the highest presence promoted in the Learning Without Tears virtual two-and half-hour workshop with a mean of 4.23/5.00. The lowest presence was indicated by participants as the social presence with a mean of 3.59/5.00.

Conclusion: Online professional development for teachers and OT practitioners is here to stay long after COVID-19 departs, as technology continues to be part of our daily lives. Developing strong cognitive, teaching, and especially social presence, is key to participant engagement in online professional continuing education offerings. The findings from this study can be utilized by those teaching future workshops for Learning Without Tears and can be used by other educational programs and higher education settings to enhance and support learning.

Faculty Mentor

Cindy Hayden, D.H. Ed., OTR/L

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Committee Member

Shirley O'Brien, PhD., OTR/L, FAOTA

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy

Department Affiliation

Occupational Therapy


I would like to thank my mentor and committee chair, Dr. Cindy Hayden, D.H. Ed., OTR/L, for her time and feedback with this project. It was a privilege to learn from her and to collaborate with her throughout this project. I am extremely grateful to my committee member, Dr. Shirley O’Brien, PhD., OTR/L, FAOTA, Program Director, Doctor of Occupational Therapy, for her valuable insight. Her expertise and leadership inspired me each and every day. I would also like to thank Laura Bray, MS, OTR/L, for all of her time and recommendations and for being a listening ear personally and professionally. I am grateful to all faculty members at Eastern Kentucky University in the Department of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Science who were supportive and generous with their time to answer questions and provide encouragement.

I would like to thank all of my colleagues at Learning Without Tears, especially Jan Olsen. I am deeply grateful to her for the knowledge and guidance she has provided me over the years as a mentor and dear friend. I would like to thank my closest friends who have provided encouragement, understanding, and continual support.

I am grateful to my parents for being my cheerleaders as I was going through this journey. I want to thank my mom for being my editor and my friend during this entire process.

I would like to thank my children, Mary Elizabeth, Olivia and Bella, who have understood the juggling act and have helped in many ways when it was needed. I hope that one day you will look back on this and realize that you can achieve your dreams at any age. Lastly, my husband, Todd, who has been my rock. I am extremely grateful for his love and support and all the little and big things he has done to make my life easier during this time.

IRB Approval Number (if applicable)