Date of Award



© 2018 Blake Clifford

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Brianna Parsons

Second Advisor

Michael Patrick

Third Advisor

Jim Otten


The purpose of this interpretative, qualitative study was to discover reasons students participating in asynchronous online undergraduate courses perceive faculty as disinterested, the significance of this perception, and how students respond to disinterested faculty. Online education continues to evolve and change how students learn and how online undergraduate students perceive and respond to faculty members. With these changes, understanding which elements influence and impact the success of online undergraduate students becomes more complex. The distinctive social context of virtual learning environments often contributes to online students characterizing faculty as disengaged. Online students often have limited opportunities to interact directly with faculty, introducing occasion for students to misconstrue faculty intent, which can lead to deteriorated student perception of faculty, institution, online learning, and higher education. Student satisfaction and perceived success are reduced.

This study documented the perceived experiences of eight students 18 years of age or older who attended and completed at least three asynchronous online undergraduate courses at a U.S. higher education institution during the years 2016 or 2017, and who experienced instructor behavior that they characterized as disengaged. Semi-structured, one-on-one interviews between the researcher and student participants facilitated data collection for this study. The major themes that emerged during analysis of the interview transcripts and field notes were lack of faculty concern, diminished or loss of respect for faculty/institution, lack of faculty competence, overburdened faculty, feelings of isolation, and diminished or loss of interest in higher education or online study. The student participants discussed examples of how faculty actions, or inactions, cultivated negative feelings. This study revealed some promising insight to faculty–student interaction from the student perspective. As a result, improved dialogue between instructors and students can establish a basis to motivate students and improve their perceptions of online interaction with instructors. Improvements can arise from scholarly discourse surrounding the exploration of what specific factors induce the subjectivity of undergraduate students’ perceptions of faculty-student interaction. This study’s data and findings can support the efforts of administrators, course developers, and instructors to improve awareness, behavior, and training programs for faculty members who teach in online learning environments.


Ed.D. Dissertation

Blake’s presentation on this topic for the UNE CGPS Virtual Research Symposium 2019 can be found here: