Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Kathleen P. King, Ed.D.

Co-Major Professor

William H. Young III, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Edward Fletcher, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Miller, Ed.D.


distance learning, instruct ional communication, retention, correlation, linear regression, logistic regression


The persistence rate in online classes remains significantly lower than in comparable face-to-face classes. There is a lack of research on strategies to help learners persist in online classes. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between face-to-face orientations, instructor verbal immediacy behaviors, and persistence in online classes. It also explored the relationship between verbal immediacy and student satisfaction. Due to the disagreement in the literature, this study also investigated the relationship between student demographic variables, grade point average, and persistence.

This quantitative study combined both causal-comparative and correlational research methods. The study took place at a community college in the southeastern United States. The participants were 171 students enrolled in online classes selected for inclusion in the study using a purposive sampling method. Students were invited to attend a face-to-face orientation prior to the start of the semester. Prior to the end of the course, students were invited to complete a survey consisting of modified versions of Gorham’s (1988) Verbal Immediacy Scale and the college’s Student Perception of Instruction survey. At the end of the semester, demographic and course completion data were collected from the college’s student information system.

A chi-square analysis revealed that there was not a significant relationship between orientation attendance and persistence. A Pearson correlation analysis and a linear regression analysis revealed that there was not a significant relationship between instructor verbal immediacy and persistence. A second linear regression analysis revealed a significant relationship between verbal immediacy and student satisfaction. Perceived instructor verbal immediacy explained 33% of the variance in satisfaction. A logistic regression analysis found that while GPA was a significant predictor of persistence, age, gender, and race/ethnicity were not.

The results of this study suggest that online faculty should receive training on communication strategies, such as verbal immediacy behaviors. Colleges should also consider using predictor variables, such as GPA, to identify and assist at-risk students. This study was one of the first to examine the relationship between verbal immediacy and persistence in online classes. Future research should continue to investigate this topic as well as other strategies to help students persist.

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