Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Hengtao Tang


Despite the continued growth of online enrollments nationwide, students consistently are not as successful in online courses as traditional face-to-face courses. The challenges are magnified in the two-year college environment, which has a disproportionately high percentage of low-income or minority students compared to four-year universities. This action research study uses a convergent parallel mixed methods design to study the effectiveness of a mandatory readiness course for online students at a two-year college in South Carolina to increase student success. Specifically, this study examined how and to what extent taking an online readiness course impacted online student success, students’ perceptions of the readiness course with respect to its effectiveness in preparing them for online learning, and faculty’s perceptions of the readiness course with respect to its effectiveness in preparing students for online learning. End-of-course student grades of 1,126 readiness course completers were compared to historical data prior to the implementation of the readiness course to determine if the readiness course had an impact on student success. A total of 220 readiness course completers and 39 online faculty responded to surveys gauging their perceived effectiveness of the readiness course. Ten students and faculty were then interviewed one-on-one to reveal their more in-depth perceptions regarding the readiness course’s effectiveness in preparing students for the online environment. A chi-square test for independence on the end-of-course grades indicated that there was a statistically significant increase in online student success comparing a term before the implementation of the readiness course to a term after its implementation. The qualitative surveys and interviews indicated that the readiness course enhanced many skills necessary to be successful in the online environment, including familiarity with the learning management system and students’ communication skills. Overall, students and faculty both perceived the readiness course to be a useful online learning resource. The study also found that the readiness course was unable to positively impact students’ time management skills. Additionally, external factors were found that negatively impacted student success that were outside the readiness course’s ability to impact, such as work and childcare obligations or poor navigational structure of online courses.


© 2020, James Devin Henson