Native American Student Perceptions of Online Degree Programs
Newell, Kelly M.
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Native Americans remain the most underrepresented community and culture in higher education due to a long history of colonialism and acculturation, a lack of adequate preparation for higher education at the secondary level, and lack of access to culturally relevant programs and pedagogy in traditional colleges and universities. Improved access and achievement in higher education is important for Native American students given the connections with socio-economic power and attainment for communities in the United States in our current knowledge-based economy. The study examines perceptions of Native American students toward online higher education in order to explore the viability of online degrees as a pathway to educational attainment. Defined by cultural relevancy and informed by indigenous research methods and theories, the study involved three talking circles of Native American college students from higher education institutions in the Inland Northwest (Eastern Washington and North Idaho) and six tribal education administrator interviews. Those conversations were transcribed and analyzed for common themes. Analysis of the findings revealed that student participants perceive online degree programs to be isolating and lacking in culturally relevant support systems. The findings also show that many students have very limited exposure to online degree programs when evaluating colleges, and access to the necessary technology and internet connection for completing a degree online is often inadequate where they live. These factors contribute to an overall negative perception of online higher education for the study participants