Persistence in an Online Master’s Degree Program: Perceptions of Students and Faculty
Persistence in online learning experiences has been perceived as chronically lower than in face-to-face learning, but a comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon has proven elusive. As online learning opportunities continue to expand, a better understanding of how learners and faculty perceive persistence is needed to foster this continued growth, and was the objective of this study. This single case study consisted of interviews of eight online master’s degree students and six online faculty members from the same program related to their perceptions of persistence. Interviews were completed initially with the students and were triangulated with faculty interview responses. The results provided insights as to how participants viewed persistence in the online classroom and how each participant experienced and managed persistence. Themes emerged related to characteristics of persistent learners, practices of online faculty and staff, online course design techniques and practices, and program-level student support strategies. The results suggest that persistence in the OLE can be attained with structured policies infused with flexibility, open communication, and an engaged learning community. Additional research is recommended with different groups of learners, longitudinal studies, and to relate these findings to existing theory.