Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Scott Mertes


Researchers have suggested that the college student population in the United States is evolving and the number of nontraditional students is rising. New student retention and academic success were ongoing concerns at a college in the southern United States and the association of those outcomes with instructional delivery model and student type was not known. In an effort to improve new student outcomes, this study examined differences in first-quarter student retention and academic success, as measured by GPA, for courses taught strictly online or on campus, and for traditional versus nontraditional students. Guided by Bean and Metzner's conceptual model of nontraditional student attrition, this quasi-experimental study used data from 1,304 first-quarter students divided into 4 equal groups (n = 326). Groups were compared for GPA using 2x2 factorial ANOVA and for retention using chi-square tests of association. Findings showed no significant differences in retention or in the interaction between instructional delivery model and student type for GPA. A significant difference in GPA between traditional and nontraditional students, with the latter earning higher grades, was found. In addition, a bimodal grade distribution was identified in all 4 sample groups indicating the highest frequencies of students earning As and Fs, suggesting that new students either do very well or very poorly academically. Based on these findings, a white paper and presentation for campus officials was developed. The implementation of rubrics in all campus-based courses along with continuous evaluation of student performance was recommended. Positive social change may result from the use of rubrics with the new student population by increasing consistency of grading and improving understanding of expectations which may lead to better student outcomes over time.