Mid-Career Adult Learners in an Online Doctoral Program and the Drivers of Their Academic Self-Regulation

The Importance of Social Support and Parent Education Level

  • Peter E. Williams Abilene Christian University
  • Natalie Wall Texas A&M University
  • Wade Fish Abilene Christian University
Keywords: academic self-regulation, adults, doctoral education, first-generation, social support


Adult professionals enroll in online graduate programs and rely on social support and on their ability to self-regulate to be successful. The literature on academic self-regulation among emerging adults (traditional college age) is ample, but we do not know how social support interacts with academic self-regulation among adult graduate students at mid-career, particularly among those students who are first generation college goers. This study addressed the following questions: (1) To what degree do parental education level and cohort progression predict academic self-regulation? and (2) What sources of social support – family, friends, loved one (significant other), and classmates – are predictive of academic self-regulation for adult students in an online doctoral program? Findings include evidence that the influence of parental educational level on academic self-regulation persists through midlife. Also, that perceived social support from family, friends, and peers predicts academic self-regulation. We conclude with implications for the design of online programs.

Author Biographies

Peter E. Williams, Abilene Christian University

Program Director and Professor, EdD Organizational Leadership

College of Graduate and Professional Studies

Natalie Wall, Texas A&M University

Research Associate

Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture

College of Education and Human Development

Wade Fish, Abilene Christian University

Associate Professor Organizational Leadership (Ed.D. Program)

College of Graduate and Professional Studies

How to Cite
Williams, P. E., Wall, N., & Fish, W. (2019). Mid-Career Adult Learners in an Online Doctoral Program and the Drivers of Their Academic Self-Regulation. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i1.3789
Research Articles