School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Kenneth Tierce


Educational Experience, Online Learning, Phenomenology, Public Education, Traditional Classroom


Education | Online and Distance Education


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to understand the shared lived experiences of traditional high school graduates while taking an online course for the first time. Many colleges and universities provide online courses as part of their regular instructional program. Some colleges and universities require students to take an online course early in their post-secondary education. However, there are a limited number of k-12 public-school districts in the United States that provide opportunities for high school students to take online courses as part of the regular curriculum. This phenomenological study was designed to investigate the perceptions of traditional high school graduates while taking an online course for the first time as university undergraduate students, related to the quality of the learning experiences, challenges faced, and learner satisfaction. Participants for the study included 11 undergraduate college students from a university in the Northeast. Data were gathered via a screening questionnaire, individual interviews, a single focus group interview, and reflective journals. Data analysis utilized NVivo software and included bracketing, open coding, and thematic analysis. Analysis yielded four major themes: (a) flexibility, (b) disconnectedness, (c) challenges of online coursework, and (d) learning preferences. The findings indicated that each participant had a unique experience during the online course. Findings also revealed important insights about online readiness, course interactions, and the strengths and challenges of learning in an online course for the first time. Finally, most participants expressed high satisfaction that the flexibility and convenience of the online course created balance in their busy lives.