Identifying Significant Personal and Program Factors that Predict Online EdD Students’ Program Integration

Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw, Joe Holmes, Jacquiline Stephens


Based on a synthesis of persistence theory and the empirical literature, an online doctoral program integration model was developed using data from 232 online EdD students. A predictive, correlation design and regression analysis were used to examine if personal factors (sex, race, age, marital status, and presence of children in the home) and program factors (stage in doctoral journey, synchronous interactions, cohorts, and orientations) could predict program integration. The entire model was significant. The variables of sex, race, participation in a cohort, and engagement in synchronous communication individually contributed to the variance in program integration.


Doctoral persistence; online; social integration; academic integration; faculty

Full Text:



Ali, A., & Kohun, F. (2006). Dealing with isolation feelings at IS doctoral programs. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 1, 21-33. Retrieved from

Antony, J. S. (2002). Reexamining doctoral student socialization and professional devel-

opment: Moving beyond the congruence and assimilation orientation. In: Smart, J. C., and Tierney, W. G. (eds.), Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (Vol. XVII), Agathon Press, New York, pp. 349–380.

Bean, J. P. & Metzner, B. S. (1985). A conceptual model of nontraditional student attrition. Review of Educational Research, 55, 485-540.

Berry, S. S. (2017). Student support networks in online doctoral programs: Exploring nested communities. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 12, 33-48.

Bista, K., & Cox, D. (2014). Cohort-based doctoral programs: What we have learned over the last 18 years. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 9, 1-20. Retrieved from

Bowen, W., & Rudenstine, N. (1992). In pursuit of the Ph.D. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Braxton, J. M., & Lien, L. A. (2000). The viability of academic integration as a central construct in Tinto’s interactionalist theory of college student departure. In J. M. Braxton (Ed.), Reworking the student departure puzzle (pp. 9-18). Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.

Braxton, J. M., Sullivan, A. S., & Johnson, R. (1997). Appraising Tinto’s theory of college student departure. In J. Smart (ed.), Higher education: Handbook of theory and research, vol. 12 (pp. 107-164). New York, NY: Agathon.

Brown, L., & Watson, P. (2010). Understanding the experiences of female doctoral students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 34(3), 385-404. doi:10.1080/0309877X.2010.484056

Carter, S., Blumenstein, M., & Cook, C. (2013). Different for women?

The challenges of doctoral studies. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(4), 339-351.

Cassuto, L. (2013). Ph.D. attrition: How much is too much?. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155.

Couch, A. & Keniston, K. (1960). Yeasayers and nay-sayers: Agreeing response set as a personality variable. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 60, 151–174.

Council of Graduate Schools. (2008). Ph.D. completion project: Program completion and attrition data. Retrieved from

Dabney, K. P., & Tai, R. H. (2013). Female physicist doctoral experiences. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research, 9(1). doi:010115-1-010115-10.

DeVellis, R.F. (2003). Scale development: Theory and application (2nd ed.). Thousand Oak, CA: Sage Publication.

Di Pierro, M. (2007). Excellence in doctoral education: Defining best

practices. College Student Journal, 41(2), 368–375.

Earl-Novell, S. (2006). Determining the extent to which program structure features and integration mechanisms facilitate or impede doctoral candidate persistence in mathematics. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 1,45-57. Retrieved from

Erikson, R.J. (2005). Why emotion work matters: Sex, gender, and the division of household labor. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(2), 337-351.

Garrison, R. D., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. The Internet and Higher Education 10(3), 157-172. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2007.04.001

Gay, G. (2004). Navigating marginality en route to the professoriate: Graduate students of color learning and living in academia. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 17, 265–288. doi:10.1080/0951839031000165390

Gildersleeve, R. E., Croom, N. N., & Vasquez, P. L. (2011). “Am I going crazy?!”: A Critical Race Analysis of doctoral education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 44(1), 93-114.

Gittings, G., Bergman, M., Shuck, B., Rose, K. (2018). The impact of student attributes and program characteristics on doctoral degree completion. New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development, 30, 3-22.

Hochschild, A. & Machung, A. (2012). The second shift: working families and the revolution at home. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books.

Holder, B. (2007). An investigation of hope, academics, environment, and motivation as predictors of persistence in higher education online programs. The Internet and higher education, 10(4), 245-260.

Holmes, J. L., & Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J. (2018). The development and validation of the Distance Doctoral Program Integration Scale. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Hyun, J. K., Quinn, B. C., Madon, T., & Lustig, S. (2006). Graduate student mental health: Needs assessment and utilization of counseling services. Journal of College Student Development, 47(3), 247-266.

Ivankova, N. V., & Stick, S. L. (2005). Collegiality and community-building as a means for sustaining student persistence in the computer-mediated asynchronous learning environment. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 8(3).

Kramarae, C. (2003). Gender equity online, when there is no door to knock on. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of Distance Education (pp. 261-272). Mahwah, NJ; Erlbaum.

Lee, A., Green, G. & Brennan, M. (2000), Organisational knowledge, professional practice and the professional doctorate at work. In I. Garrick & C. Rhodes (Eds), Research and Knowledge at Work: Perspectives, Case Studies and Innovative Strategies (pp. 117-136). London: Routledge.

Lei, S., Gorelick, D., Short, K., Smallwood, L., & Wright-Porter, K. (2011). Academic cohorts: Benefits and drawbacks of being a member of a community of learners. Education, 131(3), 497-504. Retrieved from

Lott, J. L., Gardner, S., & Powers, D. A. (2009). Doctoral student attrition in the STEM fields: An exploratory event history analysis. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 11(2), 247-266.

Lovitts, B. E. (2001). Leaving the ivory tower: The causes and consequences of departure from doctoral study. Rowman & Littlefield.

Marso, L. J. (2006). Feminist thinkers and the demands of femininity: The lives and work of intellectual women. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis.

Mason, MaryMaxwell, T. (2003). From first to second generation professional doctorate. Studies in Higher Education, 28(3), 279-291.

Moore, M. G. (1989). Editorial: Three types of interaction. The American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1-7. doi:10.1080/08923648909526659

Nettles, M. T., & Millett, C. M. (2006). Three magic letters: Getting to Ph.D. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Oswalt, S. B., & Riddock, C. C. (2007). What to do about being overwhelmed: Graduate students, stress and university services. College Student Affairs Journal, 27(1), 24.

Perry, J. A. (2013). Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate: The education doctorate-a degree for our time. Planning and Changing, 44(3), 113-126.

Provident, I. M., Salls, J., Dolhi, C., Jodi, S., Mattila, A., & Eckel, E. (2015). Design of an online curriculum promoting transformative learning in post professional doctoral students. Online Learning Journal, 19(3), 1-16.

Postmes, T., Haslam, S. A., & Jans, L. (2013). A single‐item measure of social identification: Reliability, validity, and utility. British Journal of Social Psychology, 52(4), 597-617.

Rademaker, L., Duffy, J. O., Wetzler, E., & Zaikina-Montgomery, H. (2016). Chair perceptions of trust between mentor and mentee in online doctoral dissertation mentoring. Online Learning Journal, 20(1), 1 – 13.

Richardson, H. A., Simmering, M. J., & Sturman, M. C. (2009). A tale of three perspectives: Examining post hoc statistical techniques for detection and correction of common method variance. Organizational Research Methods.

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J. (2010). Improving doctoral candidates’ persistence in the online dissertation process. Retrieved from

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Baker, J. D., Neukrug, E., Hanes, J. (2010). The efficacy of computer mediated communication technologies to augment and support effective online helping profession education. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 28, 161-177.

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., & Spaulding, L. S. (2014). Navigating the doctoral journey: A handbook of strategies for success. Lantham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Spaulding, L. S., & Spaulding, M. T. (2016) Identifying significant integration and institutional factors that predict online doctoral persistence. The Internet and Higher Education, 31, 101-112.

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Spaulding, L. S., & Lunde, R. M. (2017). Women in distance doctoral programs: How they negotiate their identities as mothers, professionals, and academics in order to persist. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 12(7), 50-72. Retrieved from

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Spaulding, L. S., Swezey, J. A., & Wicks, C. (2014). Poverty and persistence: A model for understanding individuals’ pursuit and persistence in a doctor of education program. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 9, 181–190 (Retrieved from

Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. J., Walker, V. L. (2009). Web 2.0 technologies: Facilitating interaction in an online human services counseling skills course. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 27, 175-193.

Rovai, A. P. (2002). Sense of community, perceived cognitive learning, and persistence in asynchronous learning networks. Internet and Higher Education, 5, 319-332.

Rovai, A. P. (2003). In search of higher persistence rates in distance education online programs. Internet and Higher Education, 6, 1-16.

Rovai, A. P. (2014). Creating a scholarly community and collegial support system. In A. J. Rockinson-Szapkiw & L. S. Spaulding (Eds.), Navigating the doctoral journey: A handbook of strategies for success (pp. 9-18). Lantham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Shea, P., Li, C., & Pickett, A. (2006). A study of teaching presence and student sense of learning community in fully online and web-enhanced college courses. Internet and Higher Education, 9(3), 175–190.

Smith, R. L., Maroney, K., Nelson, K. W., Abel, A. L., & Abel, H. S. (2006). Doctoral programs: Changing high rates of attrition. The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 45(1), 17.

Terrell, S. R., Snyder, M. M., & Dringus, L. P. (2009). The development,

validation, and application of the doctoral student connectedness scale. Internet and Higher Education, 112-116.

Terrell, S. R., Snyder, M. M., & Dringus, L. P. (2012). Grounded theory of connectivity and persistence in a limited residency doctoral program. The Qualitative Report 17(62), 1-14.

Terrell, S. (2005). A longitudinal investigation of the effect of information perception and focus on attrition in online learning environments. The Internet and Higher Education, 8(3), 213-219

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: a theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45(1), 89-125.

Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of candidate attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Tinto, V. (2006-2007). Research and practice of student retention: what next? Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 8(1), 1-20.

Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Warner, R. M. (2013). Applied statistics: from bivariate through multivariate techniques: from bivariate through multivariate techniques. CA: Sage Publications.

Wao, H. O., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2011). A mixed research investigation of factors related to time to the doctorate in education. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 6, 115-134. Retrieved from

Zahl, S. B. (2015). The impact of community for part-time doctoral students: How relationships in the academic department affect student persistence. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 10, 301-321. Retrieved from


Copyright (c) 2019 Amanda Rockinson-Szapkiw, Joe Holmes, Jacquiline Stephens

License URL: