CCE Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Marti M Snyder

Committee Member

Theresa McDonald

Committee Member

Stephen R Terrell


Supporting retention, student success, and online enrollments are some of the most significant and challenging topics in higher education today. Students who fail to succeed early in their studies are less likely to be retained, and students in the online environment are more likely to fail than their campus counterparts. Motivational techniques have been shown to support course retention and success, but studies of online motivational course support methods are limited. Some evidence exists that motivational messages can affect student performance in online courses, but the message format that is most effective has yet to be definitively established.

A survey research design was employed and quantitative and qualitative data were collected to determine how motivational messages and message type affect student performance and retention in an introductory online community college course. The population consisted of students in three sections of an introductory online IT course. The data included student course grades, final course scores, responses to three surveys, and the researcher's reflexive journal of motivational message design decisions made throughout the course.

Due to low course participation levels and low survey return rates, only the descriptive data were reported. Additional exploration of the literature to explain low participation was sought. Potential causes for low survey return rates included low course participation, survey length, the number of survey contacts, inaccurate estimates of survey completion time, and the number of surveys deployed. To explain the low course participation, best practices with regard to online course design were identified in the literature and compared to the design of the course used in this study. Qualitative survey results and a reflexive journal of the researcher's design decisions are also presented.

The results suggest that students liked the motivational messages. The reaction was stronger for the personalized messages than for the general, but this was not a conclusive finding. To the contrary the findings suggest that motivational messages (regardless of type) are not by themselves effective at engaging and retaining students and should not be used as a stand-alone motivational technique.

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