Department of Educational Administration


First Advisor

Brent Cejda

Second Advisor

Jiangang Xia

Date of this Version


Document Type



Gardner, M. L. (2016). A Professional development certification program for instructors teaching in the online environment and student completion and success rates at a Midwestern community college: An Ex post facto study (Doctoral dissertation).


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 in Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professors Brent Cejda and Jiangang Xia. Lincoln, Nebraska: November, 2016

Copyright 2016 Marie L. Gardner


The increased demand for online courses in higher education, particularly at community colleges, highlights two concerns: 1) online courses have high drop-out rates and 2) the prevalence of part-time instructors teaching online courses. As demand for online increases, administrators are challenged to hire faculty who are knowledgeable about their content and also qualified to teach in the online environment. Since the quality of online programs depends upon the performance of faculty, community colleges that offer online programs should provide training and on-going support for their instructors. The literature indicates that a best practice in online education to facilitate student learning success is to provide professional development opportunities for faculty.

The purpose of this ex post facto case study was to examine whether the best practice of a professional development certification program for faculty who teach in the online environment contributes to increased student completion and student success rates in subsequent online courses. Specifically, this study examined whether differences in online student completion rates or student success rates (measured by the student’s earned final grade) exist when measured before, during, and after instructors completed the professional development certification program at one Midwestern community college.

This study included 32 instructors who completed the professional development certification program at Midwestern community college who taught online classes both before or during and after the semester they participated in the professional development. A paired samples t-test and a repeated-measures ANOVA were used to compare group means with . The present study found marginally and statistically significant differences in mean student completion and success rates. The greatest increase in mean student completion was observed the semester instructors participated in the program, while the greatest increase in mean student success rates was observed after instructors completed the professional development certification program.

Advisors: Brent Cejda and Jiangang Xia