Publication Date

8-2016

Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)

5-24-2016

Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication

Department

Communication

Major Advisor

John G. McClellan, Ph.D.

Advisor

Kimberly Hardy, Ph.D.

Advisor

Marshall Most, M.A.

Abstract

One in three students takes at least one online course while pursuing a college degree. As universities and students are increasingly drawn to the convenience of online education, researchers continue to find ways to improve eLearning environments. Despite these efforts, students often struggle to succeed in online classes, and attrition rates for eLearning courses range 10% to 20% higher than traditional courses. While researchers have investigated issues of attrition in online classes as well as student identity and academic social support, little research has examined how non-academic social support might promote student identities and enhance student success. Embracing a communicative perspective to social support, I developed a model to measure perceived levels of non-academic social support among students enrolled in online courses. Using an online survey of 267 online students, I gathered data on eight types of non-academic social support, perceived levels of student identity, and measures of academic success. Academic success was measured on scales of self-reported student GPA and expected academic performance. After conducting statistical analysis of the correlation between various variables comprising non-academic social support, measures of student identity, and indicators of student success, I found no statistically significant correlation between non-academic social support and student identity as well as no statistically significant correlation between non-academic social support and self-reported student GPA. However, statistically significant correlations were discovered between measures of non-academic social support and expected academic performance. While these findings suggest non-academic social support is not associated with student identity, the findings do indicate non-academic social support can promote students’ perceived success in eLearning courses. Consequently, this study encourages continued exploration of non-academic social support as a way to improve student success in online education to improve the attrition rates in eLearning.

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