Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Howard Gordon

Second Committee Member

Lisa Bendixen

Third Committee Member

Randall Boone

Fourth Committee Member

Kendall Hartley

Number of Pages



Historically, the typical first-year college student was an 18-year-old high school graduate still living at home. However, today’s college students are frequently older adults pursuing higher education in record numbers and for a myriad of reasons. In fact, these older students are nontraditional adult learners (NALs), and they are the new majority student population (NCES, 2012). Nontraditional adult learners are identified as a student 25-years and older, entering college for the first time or re-entering college after a gap in their education. Additionally, NALs prefer to enroll in online courses because of the convenience and flexibility of online learning. However, online learners are at a higher risk for attrition than those enrolled in face-to-face classes (Hart, 2012; Park & Choi, 2009; Rovai, 2003; Xu & Jaggars, 2014).

This study, viewed through the lens of the adult learning theory of andragogy, employed an explanatory sequential mixed method research design. Further, this investigation examined to what extent NALs’ online learning experiences are consistent with the theory of andragogy (Park, Robinson, & Bates, 2016). Therefore, the Andragogy in Practice Inventory (Version 4) survey was administered in the first strand to measure the two distinct constructs of andragogy. The second strand consisted of qualitative interviews. The survey results (N=168) revealed that the seven principles of andragogy were regarded as having a major influence on online learning, but not all of the instructional process elements. The instructional process elements of; diagnoses of learning needs; climate setting; mutual planning; setting of objectives, and design of the learning experience, were less likely to have a major influence on online course persistence. However, in contrast to the survey respondents, the interview informants considered all of the instructional process elements as an influence on their online course persistence.


Adult Learners; Andragogy; Mixed-Methods; Nontraditional; Online; Persistence


Adult and Continuing Education Administration | Education

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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