Graduate School of Business


Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


Charles Williams


Social Media, Online Higher Education, Retention, CSCI


Business | Higher Education | Marketing | Online and Distance Education


Despite the growth of online higher education, online student retention remains a problem for many colleges and universities. The seminal higher education retention models developed for residential students also explain the contribution to retention resulting from connecting online students with other students, faculty, staff, and connecting with the daily life of the university in order to create a sense of belonging and community. The difficulty for the university is that online students may live at such distances from the school that participation in on-campus activities or even a singular campus visit is impractical. Further, online students are often non-traditional students with the effect that the actions and tactics used by the residential university to evoke a sense of belonging may not work for online students. Social media has been proposed as a technology that may be deployed by the university to engage its online students and create a sense of belonging and social community that may contribute to better student retention. This quantitative study assessed the association between actual online student usage of university-sponsored social media with the Classroom and School Community Indicator (CSCI), a scale developed to quantify the online or residential students’ sense of academic and social community, and the association with subsequent retention at a southeastern U.S. university with a large online student population. While the effect was small, student engagement with university-sponsored social media was significantly associated with both higher scores on the CSCI and with higher reenrollment rates.