Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Plant and Environmental Science

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. K. Dale Layfield

Committee Member

Dr. Paula Agudelo

Committee Member

Dr. Joseph Donaldson

Committee Member

Dr. Ye Luo


Online learning is one form of distance education mediated through information and communications technology such as the Internet or other technologies. The teaching content is delivered online, and instructors develop teaching modules that enhance their learning and interactivity (student-student, teacher-student, and content-student). Using social cognitive theory (SCT) concepts, the research team developed and validated a multidimensional instrument tool to assess the needs for a professional online master’s degree in agricultural education. The study aimed to assess participants’ readiness and motivations to learn online and identify participants’ needs and experience with online learning. Participants’ perceptions of online learning were assessed and provided recommendations to improve the professional online Masters in Agricultural Education that Clemson University. A total of 531 agricultural service agency employees (Cooperative Extension agents, Natural Resource Conservation Agency, and Farm Service Agency) and School-based agricultural educators from Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina participated in the study. From those, 96 participants completed the open-ended question providing valuable information. The study findings revealed that the survey instrument is a valid and reliable tool to measure online readiness and motivation to online learning. Most participants reported having higher expectations for their learning performances. Because participants had higher self-efficacy levels, they recognized the importance of having higher expectations for their learning performance and expected outcomes. Participants reported distance from campus—no need to relocate and flexibility as their primary motivators to enroll in online learning. Many prefer using asynchronous technologies since they provide a more convenient environment where they can work at their own pace and time and better balance their work and school responsibilities. Furthermore, participants recommended that professors promote student-content interaction (structure), professor-student interaction, and peer interaction. Michael Moore’s theory of interaction supports these results, which are also supported by anecdotal comments from the qualitative portion of the study. The primary themes revealed were advantages and disadvantages to online learning. After a second review of the data, recommendations based on past experience or needs, suggestions for additional online degrees at Clemson University, and recommendations of exemplary online programs were identified.

Author ORCID Identifier 0000-0002-4670-2900



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