Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Elizabeth Metzger, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joseph Moxley, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Meredith Zoetewey, Ph.D.


first-year writing, online learning, distance education, technology, teacher / student virtual interaction


Online first-year writing courses, with all of their promise, still maintain alarmingly low retention and student satisfaction rates, driving online curriculum designers to take another look at ways to increase both retention and satisfaction. To replicate the high rates of face-to-face classes, we must revisit and revise our approach to communication in the first-year writing online classroom. Think about it: The online classroom has abandoned a mainstay in education for thousands of years - synchronous communication. Why have we been so quick to dispose of it? Are we now paying the price?

This research will provide additional value to the existing body of knowledge through analyzing the findings of several studies and determining if a causal link exists between synchronous instructor / student communication and student satisfaction and retention rates in post-secondary first-year online composition courses. The research will also examine if the student's perceived level of teacher presence impacts student satisfaction and retention rates. From this analysis, this thesis will also draw conclusions and make recommendations regarding professional development policies and best practices regarding synchronous communication in the first-year online composition course.