This dissertation examines nontraditional online students’ perceptions of Tinto’s four student success conditions: expectations, support, assessment, and engagement. Expectations include those of the student, the faculty and the institution. Support includes academic, social, and financial support. Providing early and meaningful assessment and feedback to students is crucial during their educational career. The fourth success condition in Tinto’s model includes the involvement or engagement of students with their peers (and faculty) in both an academic and social contexts. Nontraditional student perceptions of each of these institutional conditions of success was uncovered through demographic survey, interviews, syllabi and website artifacts. This qualitative study provided a rich, detailed description of the lived experience of the nontraditional online student to add to the paucity of research on this understudied population. The three main themes emerged from the data: (a) nontraditional students identified in an asynchronous environment did not find the success conditions to be consistently present and reported that they would have benefited from them if they had existed both academically and socially; (b) nontraditional students identified key elements for success, which included flexibility in their schedule and the opportunity to receive a degree from a reputable institution that would lead to career enhancement; (c) students reported developing a strong, positive academic relationship with their advisor. The advisor served as a substitute for faculty-student relationships and was the primary role for providing academic, social and financial support.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Distance education students -- Case studies; Web-based instruciton -- Evaluation

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Bortman, Lisa