Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Pamela Scott

Committee Members

Don Good, William Flora, Cecil Blankenship


The increase in online course delivery in higher education has implications for students and instructors. In fall 2002, 1.6 million students took at least one online course and this number increased by the fall of 2012 to 6.7 million. The increase in the rate of enrollment in online courses in higher education provides an opportunity to examine the strategies and technologies used in course design and delivery and student engagement in the online culture. Two of the key factors in creating student engagement are the instructor's interaction with students and the course design and delivery itself. An examination of students’ and instructors’ perceptions of what factors contribute to a positive online experience may assist those developing and delivering online courses.

The purpose of this quantitative study was to investigate the relationship between the perceptions of online instructors and online students regarding student engagement and course design and delivery. Data collection techniques included the use of a survey with a 5-point Likert-type scale and collection of demographic information. Data were analyzed through a nonexperimental quantitative methodology and further explained through the use of positioning theory. Positioning theory combines cognitive and social psychology to describe how individuals interact through conversation or speech acts (Harre & van Langenhove, 1999). This theory provides a framework for discussion of the findings as to how the first interactions between students and instructors set a tone for student engagement for the duration of the course.

The study revealed that there is a strong statistical significance to the number of both student and instructors posting to perceived student engagement. The more students and instructors post in the first 2 weeks the higher the perception of student engagement. This finding allows for the application of the use of positioning theory in how students and instructors relate and experience engagement in the course. Findings also revealed that academic discipline was not statistically significant in regards to instructor and students perception of engagement. Significance was also established between student age and traditional or nontraditional status in their perceived engagement in online classes. Traditional students and also students in the age category of 24 and under reported higher rates of perceived student engagement than nontraditional students and students in the age category of 25 and older. Recommendations for practice are included in the discussion.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.