Student Engagement: Perspectives of Online Students in Higher Education

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University of Alabama Libraries

The number of students enrolling in both online programs and online courses is continuing to rise. Accordingly, educators want to know how these students can learn and succeed in this environment. The notion of student engagement has been connected to student learning, determination, and gratification. While research on student engagement is plentiful, there is no one explicit consensus of what student engagement is, or is not, among the findings. Similarly, studies on student engagement have yet to provide a distinct understanding of what student engagement is in online education. Remedying this is critical as educators must understand exactly how to create, augment, and advance engaging experiences for online students.This dissertation is an investigation into the concept of student engagement and online learning in higher education. The purpose of this qualitative, three-article dissertation was to discover and understand features and experiences of student engagement as described by online students. Two descriptive qualitative studies, paired with a qualitative synthesis of literature, found that online students value and desire engagement, although it may be experienced differently in online settings. This dissertation presents student engagement from four different angles: behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and agentic. The studies, collectively, provide a clearer understanding of student engagement from the perspective of online education’s key beneficiaries: the students. This dissertation offers several implications relevant to educators, administrators, and policymakers, and suggests several areas of consideration for future research on student engagement in online education.

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Distance education, Higher education, Online courses, Online education, Student engagement, Teacher presence