Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Communication and Information



First Advisor

Dr. Beth Barnes

Second Advisor

Dr. Renee Kaufmann


Continued advancements in technology have steadily increased accessibility to online learning and have provided more tools with which instructors can communicate with their students. As our technology evolves, so too does the students’ expectations for how course content will be communicated. It is important to understand students’ expectations for their online learning experiences so that those expectations can be met. The field of instructional communication has demonstrated the importance of behaviors that establish an instructor’s credibility, clarity, rapport, and climate in the classroom finding these constructs contribute to student cognitive and affective learning. The significance of these constructs has been studied in face-to-face learning environments, but more exploration needs to be done in online contexts.

Using expectancy violations theory, this dissertation examines student expectations for online instruction to determine what instructor credibility, clarity, rapport, and climate behaviors are expected in online classes and whether those expectations are being met. To do this, the author collected data from a group of university undergraduate students at the beginning and end of a semester. Using established measures as well as open-ended questions, the first questionnaire collected student expectations for their instructor behaviors related to credibility, clarity, rapport, and climate and the second questionnaire collected their experiences with these behaviors.

Data from the two questionnaires were analyzed to determine whether student expectations for each construct were met, unmet, or exceeded. These results were then compared to student reports of perceived cognitive and affective learning to determine that those with unmet expectations reported lower levels of cognitive and affective learning. The qualitative and quantitative data were analyzed in conjunction to identify specific instructor behaviors that support student perception of credibility, clarity, rapport, and climate in the online class environment.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Included in

Communication Commons