This study evaluated admissions criteria and practices with regards to characteristics that lead to success in an online learning environment. The study had three main objectives: (a) to examine successful online learning styles and characteristics, (b) to examine current admissions practices of graduate, four-year, degree-granting academic programs that are nearly fully online and delivered in a hybrid mode of delivery, combing synchronous and asynchronous course activities, and (c) to examine whether there was any evidence that schools offering online graduate programs are considering the characteristics of successful online learning when assessing students for admission. The study sample consisted of 50 online graduate programs offered at public, four-year institutions; 40 online graduate programs offered at private, not for profit, four-year institutions; and 15 online graduate programs offered at private, for profit, four-year institutions. An exploratory method was used to conduct a thorough review of secondary research that addressed characteristics of the online learning style and those characteristics that lead to success within an online program. Secondary research was also reviewed for a deeper understanding of current admissions practices and criteria for online, degree-granting, graduate programs. An investigation of existing literature as well as publicly available information via the web underwent subsequent synthesis, which led to examination of the connection, if any, between online learning characteristics and admission practices for online programs. The study identified sixteen characteristics of successful online learning within four main categories including Learning and/or Leadership Style; Technology Requirements and Skills; Academic and Business Acumen; and Lifestyle. The study also found that current admissions practices commonly utilize tools such as online applications, standardized test scores, and GPA when assessing students for admission. While other tools (letters of recommendation, interviews, and personal statements) were also used, the descriptive statistical results indicated less than half of the current admission practices within the total sample population consider nine of the sixteen characteristics of successful online learners when assessing students for admission to online graduate programs. Recommendations would be that further research examines admission practices prior to programs moving online for comparison of both processes and criteria used in assessing students for admission.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Educational technology; Distance education; Graduate students

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;