Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education Policy, Planning, and Administration

Committee Chairperson

David Backer, PH.D.

Committee Member

Jacqueline Hode, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Julia Nyberg, Ed.D


There is a lack of research on peer support and peer engagement in online graduate programs, particularly in online law schools where the research is practically non-existent. The purpose of this mixed-methods study is to examine how important peer support is to first-year online law students. There is extensive research that posits the efficacy of peer support on online students in undergraduate programs (Tinto, 1975; Astin, 1984) but not enough attention is given to how peer support impacts adult online students with significant external and internal compounding factors (Kember, 1989; Rovai, 2003; Redmond, 2018). This mixed-methods study will help to fill that void and also provide the student perspective, which is often missing in research on online graduate students. This study was segmented into two parts, a quantitative survey in the first phase and qualitative follow-up interviews in the second phase. The results of the quantitative part of the study revealed that online law students regarded faculty and advisor support as more important factors to persistence than peer support. However, the data collected from students that participated in the peer groups and shared their experiences in the second half of the study suggest that peer engagement does have a positive impact on persistence. The data also proposes that other factors such as time limitations, family and work obligations may make it difficult for students to participate in peer groups. Furthermore, external factors coupled with independent learning characteristics and a heightened sense of self-efficacy may also contribute to a lack of participation in peer groups.