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The Importance of Community in a Fully Online Program:

Establishing Equity, Inclusion, and Access with Nontraditional Students in an Early Childhood Licensure Program


  • Maryham Sadat Sharifian
  • Chelsey Bollinger
  • Shin Ji Kang
  • Jordan Perlish
  • Madison Masters


This mixed method study examined nontraditional preservice teachers’ perception of community in an online bachelors’ program. Previous research supports the idea that nontraditional students face a variety of barriers in higher education including but not limited to feelings of comfortability and financial concerns. This study utilized the Community of Practice theory to best understand participants’ experiences. The findings suggest that most of the participants in this online program felt they received support when transitioning into the program in addition to feeling connected to others while in the program. Finally, it is important that preservice teacher programs make meaningful efforts to create a sense of community and culture within the program, disseminate information that provides support to students transitioning, and continually establish opportunities for professional development for faculty.