Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
Persistence to program completion is critical for online students. Retaining online students is a struggle in higher education with online persistence rates being significantly lower than nononline students. In this qualitative case study the perceptions of female graduates who persisted in a fully online allied health program at a career college were investigated. Using Tinto's theory of student departure and self-determination theory, the characteristics, attitudes, and motivations of female online learners explored to discern their perceived success in the online classroom. The research questions focused on participants' perceptions, skills, and attitudes that contribute to their success, experiences with support services, and a review of archival documents to examine existing systems to support this population to gain insight into possible methods to support persistence challenges by designing meaningful learning experiences, to strengthen student persistence and develop faculty for online teaching. Notes from document reviews and semistructured interviews with 12 participants were analyzed and coded using an inductive approach to identify themes in the data. Results of the research indicated that participants used a variety of strategies for success, connected to the campus community, were prepared for online learning, and engaged with learning materials to support persisting to graduation. The findings of this study will influence social change by providing administrators and faculty a 3-day professional development program to strengthen faculties' understanding of online students' needs thereby improving online student support, persistence to degree completion, and graduation. Degree completion will improve career opportunities resulting in a higher quality of life.