Online instruction is referred to as teaching and learning that is mediated by a computer (Jones, 1997). Although the motivation for enrollment and retention in an online program for adult students is discussed in the literature review, the types of instruction may vary from simple correspondence or asynchronous communication through electronic mail, chat rooms for classroom discussion, and video-taped classes.
Online programs and virtual universities are an answer to adult students who are very busy with their lives in their careers and family life and cannot or will not attend a traditional university that holds sessions in a classroom on a campus, most often during the daytime hours when adult students are at work. However, online classes and online programs take more effort than anticipated by many students since preparation is essential, computer skills are required, and there are many obstacles that may hinder a student new to educational technology through modes of computer-mediated learning (CML). Therefore, it is my belief, that it takes a certain breed of adult students to enroll and remain in an online course or in an online program and finally, to complete the course successfully.
From my previous pilot study of a local Hawaiian virtual university, Central Pacific University or CPU, which only exists on the World Wide Web (WWW) with mentor-faculty, who teach only online or through the Internet to students who are virtual students, nine respondents have given me a few clues to the types of students who enroll in a virtual university or in an online program (Fukuda, 2000). There are many similarities in responses of the nine CPU to the responses of various students in the studies conducted with online students across the nation as well as abroad. What I primarily looked for in this study, were the reasons why adult students enroll in an online program and how they manage to continue with their program.
Profiles of Online Students
The Colorado Community College (2001) or CCC found that students were "older, more mature" meaning perhaps that they were not the usual age ranges of eighteen to twenty-one. The gender was 63% female, and 37% male, as opposed to the ratio of 40% females and 60% males for CPU (Drews, 2001, personal communication) which includes not only Americans, but Asian and Southeast Asian students as well. Ten percent of CCC students are from abroad from countries in South America, Africa, and in the Caribbean (CCC, 2001). Lakeland College (2001), gave a profile of online students as forty-four percent being between the ages of twenty-six to forty. Sixty-five percent female, 52% have a family income of $25,000 to $50,000 per year, 60% employed for thirty or more hours per week, 83% having their own computers, and 79% accessing the Internet from the home (LLC, 2001). Dille et al. (1997) noted that in the community college studied, the more academically successful student is likely to be...