School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


Carol Gillespie


student motivation, online classroom, instructor perspective of student motivation, feedback, effectiveness of reinforcement in higher education




The purpose of this case study was to describe the process of motivating online undergraduate students from the online instructors’ perspectives at online institutions. The theory guiding this study was B.F. Skinner’s reinforcement theory as it provided insight into how students are motivated using reinforcements. This is imperative to this study as instructors provide many of these reinforcements to their student population. This study was designed to answer a central question: How do online instructors describe the process of keeping their students motivated within the online classroom? Utilizing the prescribed data collection methods, a sample was derived from Cherry Hill College, an online college that operates throughout the United States, and used a convenience sampling size of 10 participants. Data collection was based on individual interviews, a focus group, and questionnaires to identify common themes and experiences amongst the instructors who participated in this study. The data analyzed was used to reflect on major themes that shaped the findings of this study regarding instructors’ perspectives of student motivation in the undergraduate online classroom. The findings of the research study indicated instructors impact student motivation. With the ability to recognize motivated and unmotivated students, utilizing effective communication and methods of reinforcement with proactive outreach, the instructors could positively impact student motivation and retention rates.

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