Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher, Ph.D.


Distance education, Distance learning, E-learning, Online education, Online learing


Online education is a new teaching and learning medium with few current guidelines for faculty, administrators or students. Its rapid growth over the last decade has challenged academic institutions to keep up with the demand, while also providing a quality education. Our understanding of the factors that determine quality and effective online learning experiences that lead to student learning outcomes is still evolving. There is a lack of consensus on the effectiveness of online versus face-to-face education in the current research. The U.S. Department of Education conducted a meta-analysis in 2009 and concluded that student-learning outcomes in online courses were equal to and, often times, better than face-to-face traditional courses. Subsequent research has found contradictory findings, and further inquiry is necessary.

The purpose of this embedded mixed methods design research study is to further our understanding of the factors that create quality and successful educational outcomes in an online course. To achieve this, the first phase of this study measured and compared learning outcomes in an online and in class graduate-level legal administration course. The second phase of the study entailed interviews with those students in both the online and face-to-face sections to understand their perspectives on the factors contributing to learning outcomes.

Six themes emerged from the qualitative findings: convenience, higher order thinking, discussions, professor engagement, professor and student interaction, and faceto-face interaction. Findings from this study indicate the factors students perceive as contributing to learning outcomes in an online course are consistent among all students and are supported in the existing literature. Higher order thinking, however, emerged as a stronger theme than indicated in the current research, and the face-to-face nature of the traditional classroom may be more an issue of familiarity than a factor contributing to learning outcomes.

As education continues to reach new heights and developments in technology advance, the factors found to contribute to student learning outcomes will be refined and enhanced. These developments will continue to transform the ways in which we deliver and receive knowledge in both traditional and online classrooms. While there is a growing body of research on online education, the field’s evolution has unsettled earlier findings and posed new areas to investigate.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Hope E. Kentnor

File size

117 p.

File format