Department

School of Education

Degree

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Chair

Judy Shoemaker

Primary Subject Area

Education, Administration; Education, Community College; Education, Curriculum and Instruction; Education, General; Education, Guidance and Counseling; Education, Philosophy of; Education, Teacher Training; Education, Technology; Education, Tests and Measurements

Keywords

Appalachia, Attrition, Distance Learning, Online

Disciplines

Community College Education Administration | Community College Leadership | Curriculum and Instruction | Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Educational Psychology | Higher Education | Higher Education Administration | Instructional Media Design

Abstract

The education attainment level of residents in rural Appalachia has consistently ranked below the remaining populous of the United States. Although distance education initiatives have attempted to bridge the disparities between rural Appalachia and the rest of the nation, online community college students in this region are likely to drop out or fail their classes. To understand the phenomenon of online attrition in rural Appalachia, a phenomenological study was conducted to determine what students experienced from the time they chose to enroll in online classes through the point of failure or withdrawal from their courses. This triangulated study utilized surveys, focus group sessions, and individual interviews to determine how the participants' perceptions and emotional responses developed, changed and lead to their dropping out or failing an online course, as well as how the students' social or cultural values influenced their online class experiences. An analysis of this study's data indicated that factors contributing to the participants' lack of success or attrition in online classes related to the social integration model crafted by Tinto and external factors indicated by Bean and Metzner. This study provided an opportunity to advance these models by considering the unique cultural aspects of an institution and its service region. As indicated by this study, the online experiences of students in rural Appalachia were directed impacted by their familial connections, their sense of self-reliance or personal independence, and a general distrust of "outsiders."

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