Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Adult, Career and Higher Education

Major Professor

Waynne B. James, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sanghoon Park, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Johanna Lasonen, Ph.D.


adult education, student success, TOOLS


Online learning has grown substantially in recent years, and there has been an emphasis among administrators, instructors, and researchers alike to better understand what drives student success in their online courses. Success in online learning is also a concern for deaf students, who face unique challenges in online courses. This survey-based correlational study used the Test of Online Leaning Success (TOOLS) to examine the characteristics of deaf adult students shown to impact success in online courses. There were 22 full responses (for a response rate of 20.95%), and an additional 7 partial responses which were included in analysis where possible. Participants were current or former students in an ASL-based online adult education program serving deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Analysis indicated overall Online Learning Success (OLS) scores did correlate with the students’ expectations for future success in their online courses. In addition, older students, deaf students, and students who use ASL as their primary language all reported a higher need for their courses to be delivered online. Older students also reported significantly higher levels of dependent learning, as defined by the TOOLS instrument. The dependent learning scores and the need for online learning scores were correlated with each other, meaning the need for online learning increased as dependent learning characteristics increased. Furthermore, these two scales were not correlated with the overall Online Learning Success (OLS) score, calling into question their impact on a student’s likelihood for success. Academic skills were found to be significantly correlated to independent learning and the OLS score. Overall, the students’ scores were low compared to the percentile charts included with the TOOLS instrument. Nevertheless, they reported high expectations for future success in their courses. Implications were also discussed for course design based on the findings. In particular, higher dependent learning scores could indicate areas that should be addressed for deaf students through proactive course design. Recommendations for future study design and future research were also discussed, including recalibrating and updating the percentile charts for diverse populations.