Organization, Information and Learning Sciences ETDs

Publication Date



Dropping out of high school has been declared an educational crisis in the United States with national and individual consequences. In New Mexico, adult dropouts only option for a high school credential has been a GED. In August 2010, Graduate New Mexico (GNM), an online asynchronous program, was implemented to help adult dropouts earn a high school diploma. The program was closed in March 2011. The purpose of this study is to determine the factors related to successful course completion of the GNM program that helped returning dropout students complete online course work. Using a qualitative design and interviews as the method of inquiry, 23 students, the full-time teachers, and administrators were interviewed. Three main research questions and related sub-questions were asked to seek out reasons for dropping out of high school, the impact dropping out had on their lives, the reason for returning to school, and the factors they identified that made them successful in the GNM course work. Students identified a number of factors of success centering on time management and communication skills: convenience, study flexibility, elimination of transportation and childcare needs, communication with teachers, and learning was within a limited self-paced structure. Technology and safety factors of success included: tutoring online and face-to-face, challenging and rigorous curriculum, easy to use technology, technical support, better focus on studies, uninterrupted attention from the teacher, support from family and friends and increased students safety. Additional findings included arrested development, generational clientele, and program accountability. Factors needing improvement surfaced as potential factors of success. These included 24-hour technology help, resources such as textbooks and a library, better program planning , buy-in from superintendents across the State of New Mexico, site coordinator training, diagnostic evaluations determining readiness for online learning, and mandatory face-to-face orientation programs before students begin. The results are significant for students, instructional designers, and policy makers. Future research recommendations include engaging and keeping dropouts in online education, application of learning principles for the dropout, differentiated curriculum for online courses, parental value of research, and determining the value of the online diploma to the dropout students and their children.

Degree Name

Organizational Learning and Instructional Technology

Level of Degree


Department Name

Organization, Information & Learning Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Salisbury, Mark

Second Committee Member

Chavez, Alicia F.

Third Committee Member

Hendrix, Charlotte




High school dropouts -- Education -- New Mexico, Education, secondary -- New Mexico -- Case studies, Distance education -- Computer-assisted instruction -- Case studies, Alternative schools -- New Mexico -- Case studies

Document Type