Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career, and Higher Education

Major Professor

William H. Young, Ed.D.

Committee Member

William F. Benjamin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rosemary Closson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James Eison, Ph.D.


Student success, Student attitude, Student opinion, Student perspective, Student characteristics


Previous studies by professionals in education have investigated the elements that are typical of the successful online student. Studies of the elements required for academic success online from the students' point of view, however, are infrequent.

This study investigated student perceptions of those elements necessary for success in online study; whether students believed differences exist between those elements necessary for success in online study and those necessary for success in traditional classes; and what factors students identify as barriers to successful completion of online courses. A comparison was made of the viewpoints of students who had and who had not previously completed an online course. The student-identified elements were contrasted to those elements identified by professionals appearing in the literature.

This study used a variety of methods. A two-part process of inventory questionnaires and interviews gathered data from twenty volunteers, half with and half without successful online experience. A thematic analysis of the data revealed that time management skills, self-discipline, the ability to work independently, motivation, commitment and adequate technology and equipment were the elements that students believed contributed to success in online study. Those elements were believed to be more important for success online than for success in traditional classes. Two elements were identified by 100% of the students with online experience as critical for success: the ability to work independently and time management skills. Three students (30%) without online experience indicated the ability to work independently was necessary and seven (70%) stated that time management skills were necessary.

Characteristics of successful students gleaned from the literature produced by professionals in education gave both similar and dissimilar portraits. Barriers to successful online study identified by students were the loss of interaction with instructors and classmates, a lack of time management skills, and problems with e-mailed questions.

It is the conclusion of this research that greater consideration should be granted by educational professionals to student perceptions of the elements necessary to successfully complete online studies.