Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


King, Stephanie B.

Committee Member

Davis, James E.

Committee Member

Stumpf, Arthur D.

Committee Member

Wiseman, William M.

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms

MSU Only Indefinitely

Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only


Community College Leadership

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Leadership and Foundations


Colleges and universities have a modern-day platform to convey their curricula and courses. The advent of online learning ignited a boom of eager learners who were enthusiastic to obtain degrees from their homes. This provided them the opportunity to seek self-betterment and study their interests while assuming other major roles. College administrators began to view distance education as an avenue to educate broader populations and extend the college mission, which, as a result, increased tuition dollars captured by the school. But, just as the distance student differs in how she or he accesses campus, the distance student needs different support and information. Many distance learning programs offer an orientation to online learning for their newlymitted students as a way to introduce them to campus, campus resources, and campus policies. The purpose of this study, which was guided by the theory of social constructivism, was to examine the impact of participation in an orientation to online learning on grade point average (GPA), the number of courses withdrawn from, and the number of courses completed with a C or higher. The study consists of a review of relevant literature on the topics of online learning and student support. This qualitative study utilized data gathered from the university’s Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (OIRE) for all students who were enrolled in the online master or doctoral level education degree programs from 2013-2015. Independent samples t-tests were conducted to determine if the mean differences in GPA, course withdrawal, and courses completed with a C or higher were significant between the control group (i.e., students who did not complete an orientation program) and the experimental group (i.e., students who completed an orientation program). The findings of this study did not indicate that having participated in an orientation to online learning program yielded a significant impact on GPA, course withdrawal, or course completed. However, because research on distance education (with an emphasis on support for distance students) is in its infancy, the researcher concludes that a change in orientation material and topics based upon best practices in online orientation may produce differing outcomes.



orientation||online learning