School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Christian Raby


relevance, online distance learning, attrition, engagement, higher education, best practices, adult learning theory, adult learners, course design, course content, communication, assignments


Adult and Continuing Education | Education | Higher Education


The purpose of this proposed transcendental phenomenological study was to describe specifically the experience of exceptional professors who convey relevance to students in online distance learning higher education courses. The theory that guided this study is Knowles’ Adult Learning Theory (ALT), as it clarifies the relationship between course design and delivery and the characteristics of adult learners. This study addressed four research questions posed to a sample of award-winning college professors who teach online distance learning courses in the American field of higher education to understand better what these professors do to convey relevance in a way that appeals to adult learners. Data was collected from teaching philosophy statements, interviews, and observations of recorded lectures. Data was analyzed using Moustakas’ transcendental phenomenological model to reveal themes and patterns related to the six assumptions of ALT. The goal of this study was to curate a list of best practices used by exceptional college professors to convey relevance to adult distance learners.