Date of Conferral

2016

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Education

Advisor

Kay Persichitte

Abstract

Attrition among students in online courses worldwide is well-documented at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate levels. However, little is yet known about the reason for attrition among in-service teachers in online training. Online education aims to provide access to education for the masses, but with higher attrition rates, it may be viewed as less effective than traditional education. This study explored factors that influenced attrition and persistence among teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in an online teacher training environment. Tinto's Community of Inquiry framework and Short, Williams, and Christie's Social Presence Model provided the conceptual framework for this qualitative case study to address the research question. Six participants in Latin America from 4 online courses, selected through criterion and convenience sampling, participated in the study. Data sources included online questionnaires, personal narratives, and a focus group interview. Each data set was analyzed using open coding to identify emerging themes, selective coding for purposes of analysis, and finally axial coding to confirm overarching themes. Findings indicate that social, teacher, and cognitive presence are key to engagement in online learning and persistence, while lack of such presences can demotivate and lead to attrition. Thus, it is important to design online training that fosters all 3 types of presence. Results also included recommendations for designing more engaging online teacher training curricula. This study contributes to positive social change by providing online course designers with a deeper understanding of factors which influence attrition and persistence.