Persisting to completion

Experiences of adult minority women in online programs


  • Dr. Alia Arafeh, PhD University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Dr. Liliana Mina, PhD University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  • Dr. Simone C. O. Conceição, PhD University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee


minority women, persistence, online learning, higher education


The explosion of online education has greatly increased adult students’ decision to enroll in online courses. This can lead to low retention, issues with persistence, and decreased graduation rates. Using an interpretive qualitative methodology, this study examined the experiences of minority women that graduated from an online master’s degree. Findings highlighted the complex social, emotional, environmental, and academic factors adult students could experience in learning online. Five themes emerged from the data analysis, which focused on (1) the overall program features and how they affected minority women persistence in the online program; (2) how self-motivation and purpose to achieve a goal contributed to persistence; (3) how course design and creation of a sense of community throughout the program helped them persist; (4) course strategies that allowed for immediate application of learning; and (5) human and institutional support that influenced program completion. Study concludes with contributions and implications to higher education and adult learning and suggestions for future research.






Peer-Reviewed Articles