Date of Conferral
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
The failure rate for students enrolled in the online sections of a gateway course, Introduction to Computers, was 15% higher than for students enrolled in the face-to-face sections at a rural community college in the southeastern United States. The computer course is required by all of the college's programs of study to obtain an associate degree. Failure to complete the gateway course increases attrition, time to graduate, and educational expenses. Guided by Bruner's constructivist theory, which maintains that students are active learners who construct their knowledge, the purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the perceptions of students and teachers that might explain the gap in performance in the online sections, and to use the results of this study to identify strategies to improve online student performance. This qualitative study incorporated semistructured interviews with a randomly selected sample of 8 online students who completed the course and with the 2 online instructors. Perceptions of the students and instructors were coded to identify and analyze emerging themes. The findings revealed that online students procrastinated and had difficulty completing assignments. Suggested strategies to meet challenges were better preparation for online learning and study skills including time management. This study included developing a 3-day professional development project to enhance online instructional techniques and learning strategies to promote student time management skills, grades, and course completion. This study and project promote positive social change by providing a deeper understanding of strategies that could improve student performance. The study findings will be beneficial to teachers, students, and course administrators.