Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration

First Advisor

Jason C. Garvey


Higher education institutions face several complicated and difficult challenges and one of those challenges, student retention, has been around for many years. Tinto (2006), a major researcher on college retention whose research has spanned over four decades, suggested that one of the most widely studied areas of higher education is student retention. Since the inception of higher education, institutions have explored and researched retention strategies to combat attrition. Many of the strategies and theories that address retention focus solely on the campus-based student. With the growth of technology, online education has become a new avenue toward earning a college degree, especially for first-generation students. While it has provided first-generation students with new opportunities and flexibility, it also creates new challenges for institutions (Sileo & Sileo, 2008). This new avenue has shifted the way in which higher education institutions approach an old challenge, but within a new environment.

The rapid growth of enrollment in online courses and degree programs suggests it is important for institutions to understand the factors that directly influence the retention of online students. According to research by Willging and Johnson (2004), online students are twice as likely to withdraw or drop out of their courses in comparison to students enrolled in an on-campus course. This qualitative study, using the modified Delphi method, will look at the implemented retention practices within higher education institutions to address the retention of first-generation students who engage in online learning.



Number of Pages

181 p.