The Narrative Inquiry of the Online Learning Environment as Experienced by First-year Students

The Narrative Inquiry of the Online Learning Environment as Experienced by First-year Students

Author: 
Shawn L. Moran
Program of study: 
Ph.D./HEA
Abstract: 
Online learning is not a novel concept to the world of education. For over a century now, distance learning, which gave birth to online learning, has played the role of providing alternative means of coursework delivery to students who cannot attend the traditional campus-based classes. Online learning brings new philosophical and theoretical dimensions to the concept of education, educational processes, stakeholders and settings. It represents a shift in culture and the very definition of the traditional elements of the educational setup. The purpose of this study is to document the attitudes of first-year students participating in online studies at a medium-sized Historically Black College and University (referred to as HBCU hereafter) in the southern United States. One question framed the research: What is the overall perception of online learning among first-year students at this school? In this qualitative study with a narrative inquiry design, the researcher collected rich data through interviewing freshman college students, which allowed students to tell their story, express their feelings, and give personal perceptions about their experience with online learning. Through narrative inquiry, student participants voiced their stories for the researcher to document resulting in four dominant themes that emerged from data collection through participants’ answers: (a) Online learning has helped students realize student-centered learning; (b) Online learning environment provides ample opportunity to collaborate with other virtual learners, (c) Online learning tools are not always reliable, and (d) Online learners are leaders. The four main themes may provide insight as to how higher education leaders can alter, change, revamp, or improve the experience for the first-time online learner.
Dedication: 
This dissertation is dedicated to the memory of my late uncle, Francoix Edirico Wheeler and my nephew “Baby Boy Moran,” whom I watched take his last breath in my sister’s arms after his premature birth. Both of these individuals inspired me to cherish life and pursue my goals with no fear. I hope to continue my learning journey as both uncle and nephew smile down on me.
Acknowledgements: 
I want to acknowledge The Lord Jesus for His power and everlasting presence in my life. Through it all, The Lord has been with me in the good and in the bad and still gives me the ability to keep going in faith to accomplish the hard things in life—without Him I am nothing. He is my everything and I thank Him for being Who is and never changing. Next, I want to acknowledge my entire committee, Dr. Arfe Ozcan, Chair, Dr. Les Huffman, committee member and Dr. Shana Nicholson, committee member for all their hard work and support to help me in this dissertation process. Words can’t express how grateful I am to each of you for your individual contributions. Finally, I want to acknowledge my pastor, Dr. Kevin A. Williams, for preaching a sermon that challenged me to go back to school. I started with my Master’s and once I finished that, I applied immediately to the doctorate program, was accepted, and will receive my doctorate soon. Keep preaching faith and challenging people to become better—love you pastor!