Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Educational Leadership and Curriculum

First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr. Doris Wilson


The higher education market is becoming much more competitive as more students are attracted to online courses and online degree programs. In order to remain competitive, higher education institutions must provide students access to online support services. However, an online student support services plan is an often overlooked component of an online initiative even though it is a critical factor in the overall success of an online program.

This research specifically focuses on online student support services for students enrolled in fully online degree programs in an effort to identify the most important online student support services from students’ perspectives, students’ perceptions of quality of services offered and, correlations between perceptions of importance and satisfaction.

This study employed a mixed method design. Data was collected through semi-structured phone interviews as well as through an online survey with Likert-type questions. Students’ perceived satisfaction and importance levels were explored by analyzing online survey items according to five areas. The five areas were: 1) Institutional Perceptions; 2) Academic Services; 3) Enrollment Services; 4) Student Services; and 5) Online Community. In total, 22 fully online degree students were interviewed and 206 fully online degree students completed and returned the online survey. Grounded Theory was used to analyze the interview data and the Rasch model was used to analyze the survey data.

Pearson correlation results indicated that there were positive relationships between importance and satisfaction for each of the five scales analyzed in this study. However, despite the fact that there were small percentages of online survey participants that reported low satisfaction levels with services that were important to them, interview participants reported that they would like access to more online services that were not currently available to them, such as: internship programs, a writing center, professional tutors with content expertise, career services (expanded to include territories/regions of online students), and health services. Findings also indicated that online services could be improved by integrating more options for live interaction with online support services staff. Additionally, the results revealed that online degree student satisfaction is highly dependent on receiving timely responses from online services staff.

This dissertation introduces the Importance, Quality and Satisfaction (IQS) Framework. This framework is formed by four domains: services, individuals, systems and environment. By implementing an IQS Framework, institutions have the opportunity to increase student satisfaction levels by providing higher quality and better delivery of their services, systems and environment.