Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education


Roberta Silfen

Committee Member

Charles Schlosser


Education, Community College, Distance education, Online, Orientation Program, Retention, Student Perceptions


This dissertation presents a qualitative case study of students enrolled in online courses and how they perceived the orientation program they completed before starting these courses. The study was based on the perspectives of students enrolled in a fully online program at a small community college in western Maine. They were interviewed individually to find out: (a) what are the perceptions of participants toward the materials presented in the orientation after completing their first semester; (b) what aspects of the orientation resonate most with participants when it comes to completing a course (nature of online learning, how to use course management system, technical requirements or learning skills and motivation). Besides the interviews, data was collected from the college’s learning management system.

The results of the study show that participants were satisfied with the content of the orientation; however, more information pertaining to specific aspects of the learning management system should be included for additional satisfaction. Participants requested additional information concerning navigating courses, turning in assignments, and posting on discussion boards. The information provided in the interviews was consistent with the theory presented by Rovai’s (2003) persistence model. Participants’ perceptions fell into tow categories, personal and technical. These results were consistent with the current literature pertaining to online courses, orientations, and persistence.

The results and findings of this study add to the body of knowledge concerning what materials in an orientation program are most effective in helping students complete online courses. The participants in this study perceived information about the use of the learning management system to be most important. Academic Deans and Student Services coordinators can learn more about what students’ perceive to be the important elements of an orientation program. The study also contributes to the existing literature on attrition, persistence, and retention.

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