Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Julia Romberger

Committee Director

Rochelle Rodrigo

Committee Member

Joyce Neff

Committee Member

David Metzger


Keeping students in college classrooms can be a struggle, but keeping them in an online classroom is an even more difficult feat. While the field of retention research has expanded its focus beyond traditional four-year students to include a variety of non-traditional student situations, including online, it has yet to focus efforts on online first-year composition at the community college. The first-year of college has been shown to be the most critical in student retention at the institutional level, which puts first-year composition in a potentially influential position. The fact that fewer students are retained in online courses than face-to-face courses indicates that why students leave online first-year composition courses is an important question to ask.

In order to begin answering that question, this study investigates the relationships between student expectations and student success in online first-year composition courses. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire before the course started, give consent for the researcher to track progress in the course throughout the semester, and complete an interview when the student stopped participating, withdrew, or the semester ended. The data suggests that students perceive their expectations being met, even when they are not being met by the course, and that this perception might result increased student success. The data also suggests that students, overall, are expecting more quality peer communication than the courses provide and that student attitude might impact success in the course. The findings suggest that those students who are unsuccessful may not have their expectations regarding communication, participation and online course preparation. Finally, the results indicate that having one or more risk factors for dropout did not predict student success in the course


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