Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Open Access Dissertation


The purpose of this study was to explore the motives, barriers, and enablers that affect adult students in their decision to enroll in community college distance learning credit classes. Three methodologies were used in the study: an online focus group of distance learning and adult education experts, enlisted to identify the main issues and questions that would be used in interviews with distance students; a questionnaire distributed to a sample of 210 distance students to determine motives, demographic information, and to act as a screening device for the interviews; in-depth interviews with 23 community college distance learners in northeast Iowa, to probe their motives, barriers, and other factors that might have contributed to their decision to enroll. Approximately 74% of the distance students were female, and 68% had taken distance courses in at least two different formats. The interviews showed that many factors contributed to most students' decision to enroll. The overriding motive for most was the opportunity to attain a degree and/or improve their career through a degree, and to accomplish this by minimizing the impact on their work and family life through distance education. For some, their previous working environment was a part of their decision. Some reported trigger experiences. Reported barriers to their enrollment included lack of money, not enough time, forgot how to study, seemed too difficult, thought they were too old, and others to a lesser degree. Some barriers were experienced more by younger students, other barriers more by older students. Certain enablers seemed to counter specific barriers. Financial aid and proximity of a college center were factors that enabled many of these students to enroll. Another factor was support and encouragement from a friend or spouse which sometimes helped them overcome discouragement from another individual. For some, a strong sense of determination or resiliency was evident. Approximately 74% indicated an interest in taking online courses in the future. Almost half of the students preferred having both time and place independency for distance courses. A theoretical construct of the path to distance education is presented.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Educational Administration and Counseling

First Advisor

Michael D. Waggoner, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (viii, 234 pages)



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