English Ph.D. Dissertations


The Adult Learner in the Online Writing Course

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English (Rhetoric and Writing)

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Mary Natvig (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Gary Heba (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Richard Gebhardt (Committee Member)


Because a gap in scholarly literature exists concerning the adult learner in the online writing course, I researched the effects of the online learning environment on adult learners in an online intermediate writing course offered through the Adult Learner Services Program at Bowling Green State University. This dissertation argues that online writing courses would better serve adult learners with a learner-centered, community-based online learning course format with educators trained in effective online writing and adult learner pedagogies.

Findings in this dissertation are based on qualitative and quantitative data collected from adult learners in three online English 207 Intermediate Writing courses and from my and a subsequent instructor’s observations of our online English 207 Intermediate Writing courses. In my analysis, I examine the issues for instructors teaching online writing courses for adult learners, which includes the lack of educational preparation for online and adult learning, the implications of previous experiences teaching face-to-face and online courses, the challenges of responsibilities and roles as instructors and as administrators, the expectations of adult learners, and the pedagogy of online course design, online discussions, time constraints, and retention of students. Further analysis of these findings addresses the challenges confronting those adult learners in the online writing course including issues arising from previous educational and technological experiences, course design, pedagogy, interactions, time commitments, and the online learning environment.

I propose that online writing courses seek a quality designation through a collegiate-based peer review process. Furthermore, online course design and pedagogy for writing courses should ascribe to professional and organizational guidelines for best practices. Similarly, online instructors need to seek educational preparation through their universities and professional organizations in the use of current technologies and technological tools and in the use of an effective online pedagogy with regard to those technologies and tools.

This dissertation calls for further quantitative research, longitudinal in nature, into the adult learner in the online writing course, into the effects and implications of specific technological and online tools such as wikis, social networking sites, and blogs, and into best practices for adult learners and online writing courses regarding these current and emerging technologies.