CCE Theses and Dissertations

The Value of an Online Learning Environment to an Adult Basic Education Program

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Getrude W. Abramson

Committee Member

Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

Ling Wang


The goal of the study was to increase student retention and achievement by using an online learning environment (OLE). The target population consisted of adults who voluntarily enrolled in adult education courses at Santa Fe Community College, Florida, and consented to participate in the study. The treatment was administered to adult basic education students with skills below the ninth grade. Since adult education programs are funded on a performance basis, student retention is a foremost concern. It is difficult for a program to increase achievement rates if students do not attend the program long enough to accomplish their educational goals. An OLE was developed to offer support beyond the on-campus classroom. Each participant took the Test of Adult Basic Education, to determine initial functioning level and the Computer Placement Exam to determine computer literacy skills. Approximately half of the entering students had sufficient computers skills to navigate WebCT.

The control group was taught in a traditional classroom setting; the experimental group was classroom based and had access to a program OLE that resided in WebCT. Student use of the OLE was monitored and usage data were collected. After the 16-week treatment period, the students were reassessed using the same instruments. Changes in test scores were used to determine educational gains. Differences in student achievement data between the control group and the experimental group were analyzed for significant differences. No significant differences were found. Student achievement may have been affected by the small number of students who participated in a post testing session as well as by the slow completion of all courses in the OLE.

The retention data were compared to data identified by the literature review and previous groups of adult basic education (ABE) students. The experimental group showed significant increases in student retention. The average number of weeks attended by the experimental group was approximately twice the average number of weeks attended by previous ABE groups. This information suggests the OLE had a positive impact on student retention.

The usage data gathered from WebCT and the results of the student questionnaire indicate that the adult basic education students found that the OLE was a valuable addition to their educational experience. The college has made a commitment to continue its development and to work with the teachers to maximize its benefits. In the future, students will have the option of learning in a traditional classroom only or in a hybrid environment made up of a traditional classroom and WebCT.

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