Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Heidi Crocker


Online course enrollment at community colleges has increased in recent years. Student persistence rates in online courses are lower than in traditional face-to-face courses. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to explore student perceptions of the external and internal factors that contribute to students’ persistence in online learning. Rovai’s composite persistence model was the conceptual framework used to explore the perceptions of eight students who were 18 and older and had completed a minimum of two online courses within the past 2 years at a Midwest community college in the United States. Findings from inductive coding analysis of semistructured interview data indicated that students perceived that certain individual characteristics, skills, and external factors had a positive influence on their persistence in online courses. Participants also revealed that they were being asked to do tasks online that faculty were not familiar with, indicating a need for faculty to have increased training in online teaching. This study’s findings contribute to positive social change by informing the development of strategic initiatives that may improve student persistence in online courses.