Department of Educational Administration


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Brent Cejda. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2013

Copyright (c) 2013 Michael B. Miller


Distance education is not a new phenomenon, distance education had its beginning with correspondence education through postal services in the 19th century (Daniel, 2000) and progressed into the 21st century with the use of computer-mediated instruction. Еvеn with аll оf itѕ соnvеniеnсе аnd роrtаbility, thе оnlinе сlаѕѕrооm iѕ ѕtill ѕееn by mаny аѕ lасking thе humаn “соnnесtivity” оf fасе tо fасе соurѕеѕ. Rесеnt findingѕ hаvе ѕhоwn thаt оnlinе lеаrnеrѕ’ lеvеlѕ оf ѕаtiѕfасtiоn, реrfоrmаnсе, аnd ѕеnѕе оf соmmunity аrе rеlаtеd tо thе intеrасtiоnѕ thеy hаvе with thеir inѕtruсtоrѕ, inсluding thе tyре аnd frеquеnсy оf fееdbасk thеy rесеivе оn аѕѕignmеntѕ аnd соurѕе mаtеriаl (Gаlliеn & Ооmеn-Еаrly, 2008).

A review of the published literature supports that interaction between instructor and student is an important aspect of learning and that students perform at a higher level when this interaction is available to them. What is not supported is what type of interactions are effective from the viewpoint of the student and lead to better engagement in the learning process by the student.

Twelve student participants were selected from an online course at a small southern community college. The institution where the study was performed used the Moodle platform to offer distance courses to their students.

The common themes identified from student interviews were (a) strategies of instructors in virtual classroom instruction, (b) intrinsic motivation of students' engagement in virtual classroom, (c) factors that facilitates completion of online tasks, (d) creation of sense of community, (e) domains of engagement in virtual learning environment, and (f) technologies that enhances students’ engagement.

Findings suggest that students believe that technology is important to their engagement in an online course. Technology is important to this “classroom” to keeping students engaged in the couse through either videos, interactive websites, or other interactive technologies such as Skype or Elluminate Live. These types of connections is what keeps the students engaged and what students are looking for from their instructors and their courses.

Adviser: Brent Cejda