Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Emily Green


Master of public health online programs have been experiencing issues with retention and problems related to inconsistent implementation of online learning communities. This basic qualitative study aimed to understand the efficacy of online programs and the perceived impact of the implantation of online learning communities. The conceptual framework for this study is Siemens’s connectivism theory supporting different types of learning in the online environment. Two research questions guided the study: (a) How do graduate students in an online Master of Public Health program perceive the efficacy of online learning communities and (b) Which components of online learning communities do graduate students in an online Master of Public Health program perceive as most beneficial. Qualitative interviews with 12 respondents enrolled in a master of public health online degree program were conducted through a video conferencing software. The semistructured interviews included topics related to joining student groups, attending webinars, and connecting with their peers on social media, among others. Data analysis consisted of a deductive approach untilizing general a priori codes centered on the research questions, then additional codes were added inductively as the analysis progressed. The six themes identified through the research process were: time management, self-motivation, helping people in their community, faculty engagement, faculty discussion engagement, and engagement outside the classroom. Information related to best practices for implementing online learning communities within higher education, particularly in graduate public health programs, was identified. The study has the potential to create positive social change by identifying factors that promote student success to help students graduate.