Date Approved


Embargo Period


Document Type


Degree Name

EdD Educational Leadership


Educational Services and Leadership


College of Education


Donahue, Patricia

Committee Member 1

Reid-Kerrigan, Monica

Committee Member 2

Nespoli, Lawrence


Community College, Engagement, Online Education, New College Students, College Success Courses


Distance education--Computer-assisted instruction--Research; Community college students; Academic achievement


Higher Education


Online course enrollments are growing despite concerns about higher withdrawal rates and lower persistence rates, academic performance, and levels of engagement (Bambara, Harbour, Davies, & Athey, 2009; Blackner, 2000; Jaggars & Xu, 2010; Xu & Jaggars, 2011). College success courses, which are meant to bolster new students' academic skills and foster engagement, are being offered online, placing academically inexperienced students in a high risk learning environment. This mixed methods study sought to understand the experience of community college students enrolled in online and on-ground sections of a college success course and how engagement may have influenced their outcomes. Despite similarly optimistic outlooks about course learning outcomes achievement, online students fared significantly worse than their on-ground peers in terms of final exam grades, overall course grades, and term GPA. While course abandonment occurred in the online sections, withdrawal and persistence rates were not significantly different; however more online students returned in the next semester on a part time basis. For both groups of students, academic engagement exceeded social engagement, as time and technology impacted their approach to the course. The challenges first semester online students encounter and the limitations of the Learning Management System as a measure of engagement are discussed, along with implications for practitioners and recommendations for future research.