Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Cynthia Aguilar


At a local community college in Texas, student retention remained a concern as enrollment was increasing while online student retention was decreasing. The purpose of this study was to examine student retention in online courses at the college. The conceptual framework that guided the project study was Tinto’s integration model, which provided insight as to why students choose to leave or continue their educational journey. The overarching question that guided the study queried the factors influencing students’ decisions to take online courses at the higher education level. A qualitative case study was used to capture information on 10 students regarding their perceptions of online learning and retention issues within the programs. Interviews were used to collect the data, along with research notes from each 40 minute interview. All information was transcribed and member checked, the data and research notes were uploaded in Nvivo 11. Once analyzed the following themes emerged, personal, academic, and institutional. The results also revealed that student participation and belonging are key indicators of student performance online and seem to be the most significant reason for failure or withdrawal from online courses. To address the reasons, a professional development plan was developed for the local community college to increase student, faculty, and staff awareness, interaction, and to assist in creating a welcoming, learning, and supportive environment. The implications for social change include presenting the professional development to the local community college to increase student retention and success rates for online courses by understanding the student population and their needs to be successful, resulting in an increase for graduation.