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Graduate Defense: Stacy Hawthorne

September 8 @ 9:30 am - 11:30 am MDT

Dissertation Information

Title: Impact of Internet Connection on Gifted Students’ Perceptions of Course Quality at an Online High School

Program: Doctor of Education in Education Technology

Advisor: Dr. Kerry Rice, Educational Technology

Committee Members: Dr. Chareen Snelson, Educational Technology, and Dr. Lida Uribe-Florez, Educational Technology


Online learning is on the rise in K-12 education and, with the lockdowns and social distancing measures implemented as a result of COVID-19, has gained increased prominence. While the demand for online learning is on the rise, many U.S. students lack adequate Internet connectivity to have a successful online learning experience. Connectivity issues, particularly when they impact audio, can cause students to tune out or even drop out of online learning. This is problematic for online schools and course providers who often have no control over the speed of a student’s home Internet connection. Online schools also have to balance student perceptions, which have been linked to their achievement. This mixed methods study examines the role of Internet connectivity on the perceptions of highly gifted students on the quality of their fully online English course on six domains: (a) appeal, (b) challenge, (c) choice, (d) meaningfulness, (e) self-efficacy, and (f) communication. In this study, highly gifted students who attended an online public school (N=19) that utilizes synchronous and asynchronous learning methods reported their perceptions on the six domains of online course quality and also their Internet downloads speed, which were used to divide them into two groups – low and high Internet download speeds. The results of the quantitative survey, a modified version of the Student Perceptions of Classroom Quality (Gentry & Owen, 2004; Gentry & Springer, 2002), were then analyzed based on the two independent groups. No statistically significant difference was found in student perceptions on any of the six domains based on the participant’s Internet download speed. Focus groups supported the findings of the statistical analysis. A total of 12 themes emerged from the focus groups to help explain the students’ perceptions of their online courses. An additional two themes were identified as common technical issues caused by Internet connectivity in online learning and three themes related to troubleshooting technical issues. This study contributes knowledge to the fields of online education, gifted education, impact of student perceptions, and transactional distance in online learning.