Identity, age, proportion of online classes, and success among students in a predominantly online degree program
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Most colleges and universities in the US offer at least some classes online, and a significant number of colleges and universities offer degree programs either all online or predominantly online. Many of the distance learning courses and programs emerge from traditional courses and programs; however, in the past decade we have seen the emergence of programs that are designed as degree completion programs. These programs tend to target older, nontraditional students who may have significant time lapses in their education. Students who enroll in these degree completion programs have a variety of roles and role-identities, and they exist within multiple social structures and must negotiate between, for example, family, work, community, and education — often after a significant time out of the classroom. This study examines the Bachelor of General Studies Program at Texas Woman's University as an example of a predominantly online degree program. Identity theory research has overlooked identity in online education. The intent of this dissertation is to begin to fill this gap in the literature. The results of this study suggest support for some hypotheses tested. Age is a significant predictor of success in predominantly online degree programs. The results indicate that those in their 20s have lower grade point averages than other age groups. The analysis also revealed that older students place significantly more importance on studying than younger students. Race is related to success in the program. Specifically, blacks are less successful than whites. Black students believe participating in activities related to being a student is less important than whites. However, blacks and Hispanics indicate studying is more important than white students believe. In addition, extensive commitment, measured by joining organizations related to being a student, has a statistically significant relationship with grade point average. Those who join organizations tend to have higher GPAs than those who do not join organizations. Finally, there is a significant, positive relationship between confidence and GPA; those who are more confident tend to be more successful.