Date of Conferral







Cheryl Keen


Although online enrollments at community colleges have increased in recent years, student dropout rates in online classes have also increased and educational researchers wonder why students are dropping out of online courses and if online instruction can contribute to student success. The purpose of this generic qualitative study was to investigate the online experiences of students who dropped out of the Introduction to Business online course at a community college in a Mid-Atlantic state and the factors that led to their decision. The research questions concerned how students who took the Introduction to Business online course described their decision to drop out of an online course, their social integration in the class, and their perception of what could have been done by staff to help them continue in the online course. Tinto’s student integration model and Bean and Metzner’s nontraditional student attrition model served as the conceptual framework. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews with 7 full and part-time students. Interviews were coded, which led to 8 emergent themes:

faculty unavailability and inflexibility for working students, lack of feedback from the instructor, the online course being designed for traditional students, too many assignments from the publisher and no creativity from the instructor, lack of student preparedness for the online format and weak online course orientation, frustrations regarding the course discussion board, isolation and lack of interaction with peers, and the need for more access to staff who might provide support. The results may be helpful to educational leaders in improving the design and delivery of online business courses, which may contribute to positive social change by increasing student retention and success.