Theses and Dissertations


Jodi Roberts

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Londo, J. Andrew

Committee Member

Grado, C. Stephen

Committee Member

West, C. Ben

Committee Member

Wong, Daniel

Committee Member

Crittenden, A. Laura

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Forest Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Forest Resources


Department of Forestry


Distance education is an innovative delivery method that is gaining a great deal of attention on university campuses across the United States, as well as worldwide. While this attention may seem to be newfound, the earliest record of the practice of distance education traces back to Biblical times and was later referred to as correspondence. Land-grant institutions in the United States were among the first to offer correspondence courses to students who may otherwise not have been able to attend traditional university classes. While online education programs and courses across the United States have grown, from 1.6 million students enrolled in the fall 2002 semester to 5.6 million students in the fall 2009 semester, only 4.5% of those were offered in the natural resources discipline. Identification of inhibitors and motivators for engagement in online education opportunities with regard to university administrators, faculty, and students in the natural resources is the next step to understanding why the discipline is poorly represented. Three surveys were conducted in cooperation with 50 institutions listed in the Society of American Foresters (SAF) Accredited and Candidate Forestry Degree Programs to identify inhibitors and motivators, real and perceived, of university administrators, faculty, and students regarding their levels of engagement, if any, in online education activities. SAF, the accrediting body for undergraduate forestry programs, has recognized these institutions as having met the criteria for a professional degree in forestry. While this research cannot be generalized to each discipline within the field of natural resources, it does expand upon the existing research on perceived inhibitors to and motivators for participation in online education and also highlights unique characteristics and challenges of natural resource administrators, faculty and students. The research designs utilized similar techniques previously implemented on the disciplines of business, education, agricultural economics, and agribusiness and it was determined that responses by natural resources administrators and faculty coincided with their peers from other disciplines. Additionally, results indicate that natural resource students are enrolling in online courses to supplement their degrees; however, they are not enrolling in online degree programs.