Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Lilian H. Hill

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Kyna Shelley

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Eric Platt


Soft skills are an essential piece in the employment puzzle, and most students’ behavioral characteristics require development, if not complete transformation, before learning can subsequently be transferred to the workplace. To that end, this facet of occupational education in community colleges’ online courses was in need of exploration to determine whether instructors were having success in implementing instructional and assessment methods for both teaching and grading students’ soft skills behaviors. This mixed methods study narrowed the focus of an extremely broad topic to four skills, specifically communication, critical thinking, teamwork, and work ethic. A look at how those skills related to online students’ overall employment readiness was also examined.

In an effort to provide a comprehensive investigation, the study began with a focus group to collect ideas and generate themes for items to create a questionnaire. The questionnaire was distributed to instructors of online CTE courses at participating institutions to collect survey data. Participants who volunteered via an open-ended question on the survey instrument were then invited to share their stories through interviews. This in-depth investigation produced deeper meaning and explained points found in the quantitative data that otherwise seemed contradictory.

Both quantitative and qualitative data showed a critical dearth of teamwork instruction and assessment. Nevertheless, overall findings were conducive to promoting incorporation of soft skills in online courses as well as allowing instructors to trust the educational process when considering whether online students are ready for employment.