All Theses, Dissertations, and Capstone Projects

Year of Award



Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education & Allied Health

Degree Program

Collaborative High Impact Instruction


Education and Special Education

First Advisor

Jamie Doronkin

Second Advisor

Catherine Schroy

Third Advisor

Jenna Voss


nontraditional students, distance learning, COVID-19, coronavirus, degree completion, pandemic, learning management system, LMS, asynchronous


This phenomenological research aimed to examine the impact that transitioning to online education in March of the Spring 2020 semester in response to COVID-19 had on nontraditional students. Students are considered nontraditional if they meet at least one of the following criteria: are at least 25 years old, attend school part-time, work full-time, are a veteran, have children, wait at least one year after high school before entering college, have a GED instead of a high school diploma, are a first-generation student (FGS), are enrolled in non-degree programs, or have reentered a college program (MacDonald, 2018). Nontraditional students hold multiple roles by definition. Holding multiple roles can lead to role strain and role conflict when one role is in direct conflict with another.

This study purposively identified 12 participants. Participants completed an online survey and a face-to-face interview over Zoom in Fall 2020. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected. Of the nontraditional students in this study 75% (n=9) identified as male and 25% (n=3) identified as male. Seventy-five percent (n=9) of participants identified as white, while 25% (n=3) identified as Black. There were zero freshman, one sophomore, two juniors, and nine seniors. The mean number of years participants had spent in higher education as of Fall 2020 was 5.4 years. All participants (n=12) had access to a laptop and the internet. The emergent themes identified in this study were preference for in-person education, struggles with solo/independent learning, having less compartmentalization of time, feelings of overwhelm and stress, and experiencing differences in the online teaching styles of professors.

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.