A Grounded Theory for the Dissatisfaction of Asynchronous Online Education Among Community College Students

Scott Sandok


As higher education institutions face the pressures of decreasing enrollment, online education is experiencing significant growth. Students are attracted to asynchronous online courses’ flexibility but often have inconsistent experiences. Previous research focused on drivers of satisfaction for online learning; this study concentrated on identifying the drivers of dissatisfaction for asynchronous online delivery among community college students. This study utilized a survey and semi-structured interviews to generate a grounded theory answer to the drivers of dissatisfaction. A survey based on Moore’s Transactional Distance Theory model broadly identified the areas of most significant concern for students with experience with asynchronous online courses. That survey informed the question prioritization within the semi-structured interview process. The Charmaz Grounded Theory model was used to deconstruct, analyze, and reaggregate the data collected into a meaningful theory, the Theory of Dissatisfaction Contributors. The three contributing categories to the theory are a feeling of being unsettled, unaligned expectations, and operational challenges. Understanding these sources of dissatisfaction can help with student retention and success.