Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Abraham S. Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice


Susanne Flannelly

Committee Member

Daniel Turner


business industry, career services, distance education, employability, online education, private sector


The applied dissertation was designed to understand the perceptions of private-sector employers regarding the selection of candidates from distance-only higher education institutions. Guided by signaling theory as a framework, the study explored the mismatch between institutional, student, and employer expectations of skills and readiness for the labor market. Research into the employability of students and the acceptability of their distance-only degrees in the business sector could be informative as to whether the investment of students and their families provided fruitful employment opportunities. The literature showed an increase in enrollment for online learning, legislative expectations of higher education with the lack of structure and guidelines for distance education institutions to systematically assess their programs for the proper report to the government, mixed preferences by employers for candidates from distance-only institutions, and salient themes that indicated favorable skills and experiences for undergraduates such as experiential learning and communication skills. The research question informed data collection: What were the perceptions of business private-sector employers in the United States regarding the employability of candidates from distance-only higher education institutions? Bracketing and reflective journaling ensured that bias was acknowledged and removed from the influence of analysis. Findings from data analysis provided categories and themes associated with the central research question. One salient theme was that experience was a key factor when reviewing employee candidates from distance-only Institutions of Higher Education (IHE). Another theme was that the acquisition of the degree and the surrounding knowledge acquired were secondary to the necessary real-world experience, soft skills, and hard skills for navigating business or corporate environments.