Elements of The Online Experience That Create Organizational Affinity Among Adult Distance Learners

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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership (EdD)

Committee Chair

Valerie Storey

Committee Member

Yuerong Sweetland

Committee Member

Blake Renner


Higher education institutions face an ongoing struggle to identify new and expanded sources of revenue outside those generated through enrollment. Alumni represent a continuing and substantial source of philanthropic funding to help solve this challenge (CASE, 2019). To effectively engage alumni, development officers must understand how alumni view their connection to the institution and how to capitalize on that connection to direct their giving behaviors toward that institution. As an increasingly accepted mode of delivery, alumni who studied online present a growing opportunity for customized, segmented outreach efforts. However, limited research exists on the factors that impact an online student's connection with their higher education institution and whether those factors contribute to becoming a donor. Therefore, this qualitative study explored alumni perceptions of what lived experiences contribute to their sense of affinity in an online learning environment. Data was collected through interviews with alumni who studied online at a mid-west four-year private university. Findings from this study are offered to advance insight into organizational identity factors that may serve as an impetus to become a donor.