Date of Award

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies

Committee Director

John Baaki

Committee Member

Ginger Watson

Committee Member

Mitchell Williams


For-profit colleges are threatening community college enrollments by recruiting low-income and minority students with the appeal of quick degree and certificate program completion rates. To remain competitive, community colleges are creating guided pathways for student success. A guided pathway is a clear road map to certificate or degree completion. Community colleges that offer guided pathways challenge students to choose an academic program in their first semester and no later than their second semester. Once students choose their academic program they begin taking specific classes in pursuit of certificate and degree completion, which offer students flexibility in format (face-to-face, hybrid, and distance learning sections) and flexibility in pacing (self-paced vs. teacher-paced). This study investigated whether differences exist in course completion rates, preferences in pacing, and performance between non-traditional students and traditional students in either a teacher-paced or self-paced instructional environment at the community college level. Achievement and course completion outcomes, similar outcomes in a guided pathway, were two dependent variables in this study. Two covariates for this study were Pell Grant eligibility and grade point average (GPA). Also of interest was student preference in navigating either a teacher-paced or self-paced community college course.

This study found performance differences along the following participant attributes: age, pacing environment, GPA and grant-funding status. Student preferences did differ between non-traditional students and traditional students completing a self-paced course and a teacher-paced course. Traditional students in a self-paced course were balanced initially in their thoughts toward a self-paced course, but by the end of the semester the traditional students preferred the self-paced course. The majority of non-traditional students preferred the self-paced course from the beginning of the semester and through the end of the semester. Performance also differed between students when considering grade point average (GPA) and Pell Grant eligibility. Student age and course completion rates were also tracked, but were shown to have no significance to student performance in this study.


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