Students in the United States are obtaining more college degrees than ever before. In 1975, 21.9% of Americans held bachelor’s degrees, and in 2012, 33.5% of Americans held bachelor’s degrees (Rampell, 2013). A study in 2011 indicated that Americans possessing a bachelor’s degree earn approximately $2.27 million, those with master’s degrees earn $2.67 million and those with doctoral degrees earn $3.65 million over their adult lifetime, dwarfing those with some college, who earn $1.55 million, or no college, who earn $1.30 million (Burnsed, 2011). Unfortunately, the increase in college degree attainment in the United States does not include all Americans. Among low-income students, degree attainment has been fairly flat for several decades (Mortenson, 2016). Although education can be a great equalizer and opportunity generator, among lower income students it is often times an insurmountable challenge to obtain a bachelor’s or post baccalaureate degree. College students can have challenges in obtaining learning opportunities due to factors beyond their control, such as geography and access to quality instruction. In order to provide equity and opportunity for nontraditional students who either working, have family responsibilities, or are low income or first generation college attenders, it is important to make every effort to connect these students with meaningful and attainable opportunities to obtain a college degree. One such delivery model of curriculum is online learning. Online learning in higher education - in which students are obtaining bachelors, masters, or doctoral degrees - takes place either partially or fully in a virtual environment accessible from e-learning devices such as laptops, tablets, or smartphones. The goal of this study was a greater understanding the best practices in adult online education. The participants in the study were asked to help identify both the challenges and successes experienced in their online learning environments. While success in both teaching and learning is subjective, the data revealed a number of common themes, which indicated similar elements that lead to success in an online environment in areas of curriculum design, classroom management, and use of technology.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Adult learning; Adult education; Computer-assisted instruction

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Madjidi, Farzin;