Date of Conferral







Kimberly A. Rynearson


Online education has been established as a viable option for adult learners. More recently, it has been adopted by many institutions as a critical component in their long-term planning and success. Despite consistent growth rates in online enrollment, and the advantages to online learning, attrition rates for online courses remain higher than traditional (ground) courses. Bar-On’s theory of emotional intelligence (EI) and Knowles’ self-directed learning (SDL) theory have been positively linked with online academic performance and identified as predictors of learning online and life success. The purpose of this quantitative, cross-sectional study was to explore EI and SDL as predictors of online success (OS) and to test whether SDL mediated the relationship between EI and OS. Adult learners (N = 345) were recruited from a fully online university’s research participant pool and from social media sites (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn). After giving their consent, participants completed an anonymous online questionnaire hosted by an online survey platform. SPSS and the PROCESS macro were used to test the proposed mediation model. Statistically significant bivariate correlations were found among EI, SDL, and OS. Multiple regression analysis revealed that SDL predicted EI and OS. Using bootstrap resampling with replacement as the mediation method, the path coefficients indicated a weak, but statistically significant, indirect effect of SDL on the relationship between EI and OS. This study has implications for positive social change; these results may improve online course design, instruction, and alternative online education options to better meet the needs of adult online learners.