A Descriptive Study of Online Perceptions for Community College Students

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The problem was more than one-third of college students feel disengaged and demotivated learning online during extreme or unforeseen circumstances, resulting in low academic performance. The purpose of the qualitative descriptive study was to explore students’ perceptions about experiences of motivation, engagement, and learning outcomes when studying online under extreme or unforeseen circumstances at a large suburban community college on Long Island, New York. The study attempted to fill the gaps in the literature by examining how digital technology can be used to motivate and engage students at higher education institutions in the United States. Constructivism and behaviorism learning theories were the theoretical frameworks for the study. The research questions examined students’ feelings about the online learning environment and perceptions of motivation and engagement. The data were collected using semi-structured interviews containing six open-ended questions from 15 higher education students out of 950 students who responded to the participant recruitment invitation. The selection criteria were convenience sampling. Thematic analysis was used to find patterns, connections, relationships, and meanings in the data. Results from the study confirmed remote learning was more convenient. The interaction between the course instructor and the students along with the use of instructional-based digital technology has enhanced online performance, motivation, and engagement. Recommendations are to provide professional development opportunities focusing on technology to enhance the learning environment for students. Keywords: educator, behaviorism learning theory, motivation, engagement, perception, 21st-century skills theory, constructivism, digital divide, and digital literacy.