School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Judy Shoemaker

Primary Subject Area

Education, General; Education, Educational Psychology; Education, Higher; Education, Technology


attrition, barriers, Doctor in Education, higher education, Non completers, retention


Education | Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Instructional Media Design


The chance of an individual completing a traditional doctorate program is 50% (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools Ph.D. Completion Project, 2008; Ivankova & Stick, 2007). Student attrition in online programs is 10% to 20% greater than that of traditional, residential programs (Allen & Seaman, 2010; Carr, 2000; Diaz, 2000; DiRamio & Wolverton, 2006; Parker, 1999; Rovai, 2002). While doctoral attrition rates have been examined for decades, little research focuses on the phenomenon of attrition with doctoral candidates who enrolled in online graduate programs (Perry, Boman, Care, Edwards & Park, 2008). The phenomenon of attrition is multifaceted and dependent on countless academic, social, and personal factors (Picciano, 2002). As online education continues to gain popularity and acceptance within institutions of higher education, institutions will feel the pressure to address the issue of retaining their online learners. Therefore, it is necessary to continue to research students and faculty of online learning within a college setting to determine the best practices for the online environment. This qualitative, hermeneutic phenomenological study describes the experiences online doctoral students enrolled in United States educational doctoral programs. Data collection occurs through surveys, participant timelines, and interviews and is analyzed using van Manen's (1997) recommendations for conducting a hermeneutic phenomenological study. The findings show that institutions should augment good educational and administrative practices along with engaging in academic and social integration to help students in online doctoral programs. The study also shows that students entering into an online doctoral program should be proactive in determining if an online program is the right educational choice for them versus a blended or traditional type program.