Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Rachel Spilka

Committee Members

David Clark, William Keith, William Van Pelt


Business Writing, Learning Transfer Theory, Online Courses, Online Education, Technical Communication, Workplace Writing


For technical communication educators, a fundamental consideration is to what extent the skills and information students learn in the classroom are applied in a workplace environment. While this issue has been studied, it has not been examined from the perspectives of students taking an online writing course or of instructors teaching that kind of course. To investigate this issue, I conducted a two-part, qualitative study consisting of surveys and follow-up interviews that explored instructor and student (former and current) perceptions regarding learning transfer from online business and technical writing courses to postgraduate jobs or careers.

Learning transfer theory was used as a theoretical base to guide my investigation and interpret the results. Study findings show that many students in an online technical communication course learn the meta-level rhetorical skills needed for high road transfer to take place. Subjects also perceive inherent features in online technical communication courses that prepare them well for workplace writing. Students perceive strengths of online courses as including flexibility and the high degree of practical real world value that they offer. They also perceive shortcomings of these classes as including lack of community and lack of immediate feedback and guidance.

This study resulted in a list of best practices for facilitating learning transfer from the online writing courses to the workplace, along with suggestions for future research.