Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Dissertation


University of Northern Iowa--Graduate students--Attitudes; Web-based instruction--Public opinion; Graduate students--Iowa--Cedar Falls--Attitudes;


The purpose of this study was to investigate graduate students' perceptions of online education. Online learning has grown tremendously over the past several years and has made learning and teaching opportunities more available to many people throughout the world. As an increased number of higher education institutions use online education as a means of delivering courses and programs, educational researchers have been working tirelessly to uncover and delineate the factors that facilitate and enhance success in online learning. One major factor that researchers (e.g., Pérez Cereijo, 2006) have established as a predictor of success is students' perceptions of online learning. Hence, understanding how learners perceive the online learning environment could assist course designers in developing effective online learning experiences.

A qualitative, in-depth exploratory case study approach, with limited quantitative data, was used to investigate a group of graduate students' perceptions of an online learning environment of a specific course, the factors which motivate them, and their sense of community in this environment. Data was collected using an online survey, personal interviews, online course interaction observations, and e-mail follow-up questions designed to address the research questions.

Results showed evidence that most participants were satisfied with their online experience, and that they were self-regulated and self-motivated learners. The findings also indicated that the lack of social connection may decrease participants' levels of satisfaction of their online learning experience, impact their desire to ask for help from other class members, and lead to a weak sense of being connected in a learning community. The findings also showed that the common concerns in this online learning environment were a sense of social connection and using technology to enhance connection in online learning. Based on the results of the study, the researcher provides the online instructional designers and instructors with some recommendations to engage online learners in active learning communities.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Radhi Al-Mabuk, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 208 pages)



File Format