Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Educational Administration and Foundations: Educational Administration

First Advisor

Lydia Kyei-Blankson

Second Advisor

James C. Palmer


Disparities in academic performance between African-American and White students are larger in online courses than in face-to-face courses. As online learning grows and students enroll in more online courses as a way of balancing school with work and family obligations, African-American enrollment in online courses threatens to exacerbate the population’s already inequitable course success and college completion rates. To help improve the online academic achievement of African-American community college students, this qualitative study draws on interviews with 12 members of the population who completed online courses with passing grades. The study identifies the challenges students experienced in the online environment, the resources they used to overcome those challenges, and the strategies used to succeed. The conceptual framework for this anti-deficit study is positive deviance. Thematic analysis of the data revealed that the students’ major challenges were a lack of instructor presence, difficulty balancing multiple responsibilities, and having to develop self-directed learning skills. Resources included the internet, instructors, grit, jugaad, and academic motivators such as the desire to achieve social and economic mobility. Strategies for success included using time management and organizational skills to complete coursework, in addition to not taking difficult courses online. Recommendations to community colleges for improving success rates of Black online learners include shifting from deficit thinking to equity thinking, and considering how institutions can modify practices to redress inequities in Black collegians’ course completion and graduation rates.


Imported from Mackey_ilstu_0092E_11968.pdf


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