Date of Conferral







Jennifer Smolka


A challenge faced by higher education is whether online orientation that is offered before the start of class can impact academic performance for online students. The purpose of this quantitative research study was to determine if there are significant differences in retention, academic success, and persistence between first time online students who have participated in an online orientation and those who did not participate and if there was a significant difference in retention, academic success, and persistence by gender of first-time online students. The sample for this study was extracted from archived data originating from 433 first-time online undergraduate students at a 2-year technical college in South Carolina. Student retention was measured by midterm grades, academic success as measured by final course grades, and persistence as measured by enrollment in at least 1 online class in subsequent semester. The results of this study indicated a high level of statistical significance in male and female first-time online students with academic success as well as overall persistence in students who successfully completed online orientation with a grade of 80 or better. Additionally, statistical significance was found in relation to male and female first-time online students and retention. These results can support a shared purpose among educational leaders to transform online education into a collaborative learning environment that promotes growth, competence, and a thriving learning community. The results of this study reinforced awareness and understanding among educational leaders at colleges and universities about online orientation and its impact to online students' success.