Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Instr and Curr Leadership


Instructional Design and Tech

Committee Chair

Deborah L Lowther

Committee Member

Lee Allen

Committee Member

Mary Ransdell

Committee Member

Marla Royne Stafford


This research examined higher education faculty perceptions and practices regarding the role of digital tools; specifically, social media and communication tools to achieve connectedness between the faculty member and students and among students in fully online courses. The study was guided by three research questions: 1) What are faculty perceptions of connectedness and its importance with regard to achieving connectedness? 2) In what ways do faculty use social media and/or communication tools in online courses to achieve connectedness? and 3) What do faculty report as key benefits and challenges to achieving connectedness in online courses? A qualitative, intrinsic case study approach and purposeful sampling were used to ensure relevant information would be obtained from five business college faculty who taught fully online courses and potentially used social media and communication tools in these courses. Data were collected using face-to-face semi-structured interviews, which were recorded and transcribed. Constant comparative analysis of data involved categorizing and sequencing of data to discover emerging themes as associated with the research questions. The findings suggest that to achieve connectedness in fully online courses, faculty must be available, responsive, and sensitive to student needs and create an online environment of connectedness. Additionally, connectedness among students was often more important than between faculty and students. Faculty used social media and communication tools for student encouragement, course support, and sharing her/his personality with students, while students used these tools for peer teaching, mentoring, and community building. Connectedness was thought to benefit students by helping them feel less isolated, more engaged, as well as achieve greater course success and become more successful people in business and life. Faculty reported challenges related to the difficulty of achieving early semester student engagement and work environment constraints that inhibit achieveability of connectedness in fully online courses. This study has implications for designing online courses that incorporate use of social media and communication tools that foster connectedness between faculty and students and among students. Future research is needed to examine student perceptions of connectedness in fully online courses and possible influences of connectedness on course completion and retention.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.