Date of Award

Fall 12-15-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Education, Ed.D.


College of Education



First Advisor

Candis Best, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Quincy L. Daniels, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Alicia Holland, Ed.D.


While many consider college students to be digital natives, who are at ease with multiple forms of technology, many of these students do not adapt these skills for academic purposes. Retention concerns for college students often prompt support staff to seek out and adopt technology approaches to promote completion. This study provided a virtual learning platform to deliver academic support and sought to promote learning community interaction for rural and urban post-secondary students. A subset of vocational major programs that prepare students for employment after completion served as a participant pool. However, participants in the study chose not to use the resource and the researcher then refocused the study as an exploratory case study. Research questions focused on the role of virtual learning communities for college students, how virtual learning communities support academics, how students use virtual learning communities and their technology preferences. The platform vendor provided interview transcripts from eight rural and four urban community college students. A thematic analysis revealed themes of communication, academics, support, and responsibilities. Further analysis resulted in parsing out technology as a major theme, with communication becoming a subset. Limitations of the study result from a convenience sample of rural and urban college students. Social learning and cultural practices provided a theoretical structure regarding belongingness and self-determination. Findings report students use social networking for personal and recreation purposes but did not adapt these resources for academic support. There are 14 figures and 38 tables in this study.