This phenomenological study examines the real-life experience of first-time online learners enrolled in a fully online master’s program, at a private, nonprofit University in Minnesota. Each of the participants had taken at least two complete courses online, with some nearing the end of their program, and were recruited from various online programs. They encompassed different age groups and levels of experience with distance education. A phenomenological examination of the interviews and focus group transcripts yielded comprehensive results in coding the prevalent category themes. The findings helped identify approaches to online education and the opportunities and challenges these participants faced in their online courses. These aspects were divided into themes that further illuminate the participants’ real-life experiences. As a result of the analysis, the research revealed the learners’ appreciation for the flexibility that online learning brings into their lives. Furthermore, the researcher discovered that the participants were driven to improve their skills through the online learning environment by employing various resources.
Student, Doctor of Education, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Minnesota, United States
Distance Education, Online Learning, Qualitative Analysis, Phenomenology