The purpose of this phenomenological inquiry was to explore how low-income adult college students engage in online learning environments at a mid-sized state college in the southeast of the United States. This study was guided by a conceptual framework of Knowles et al. (2015) adult learner theory and Garrison et al. (2000) communities of inquiry (CoI) frameworks. By analyzing participant responses through both the community of inquiry and adult learning theory frames, this study perceived the needs and expectations that are distinctive to adult learners through a social, cognitive, and teaching presence in the online learning environment. A transcendental phenomenological design was used to address the three research questions. Eleven college students who fit the scope of low-income adult online learners participated in semi-structured interviews for this study. The themes discovered in this study will allow instructors and leaders in higher education to interpret a more nuanced and in-depth understanding of the characteristics, barriers, and opportunities for engagement in this ever-growing population of adult learners in the online learning environment. Based on the results of this study, recommendations for practice include increasing opportunities for more peer-to-peer engagement, embedded student support services, developing resources to increase online readiness, providing more specific support for adult learners, and exploring more flexible face-to-face course offerings.
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Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
College of Community Innovation and Education
Educational Leadership and Higher Education
Educational Leadership; Higher Education Track
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Kohen, Cheryl, "The Exploration of Low-income Adult College Student's Engagement in Online Learning Environments" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 890.