Administrative Strategies to Foster Civic Engagement: Comparative Study between Campus-based and Online Undergraduate College Students

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Brief Abstract

Higher education is the purveyor of civic engagement by developing student’s critical thinking, community service, civic attitude, and civic behavior needed in a self-governing society. Current trends reflect the growth and popularity of online learning. In this session, research comparing the civic engagement between campus-based and online students will be presented. Research findings uncovered significant differences between campus-based and online student populations for civic engagement which led to the discovery of both theoretical implications and practical strategies for university leadership, administration, and faculty.


Marnie C. Davis is a Full Time Faculty member in the Colangelo College of Business at Grand Canyon University. Marnie is originally from California but career opportunities brought her to Arizona in 2001. She received a Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership from Grand Canyon University in 2020 and a Master of Business Administration from University of Phoenix in 2010. Marnie spent 20 years in big box home improvement retail management where she cultivated and developed her leadership and community service abilities. Marnie has a strong passion for teaching and learning and is devoted to helping her students find their purpose. Her research interests include online learning, civic engagement, and collaboration. Marnie presented at the DT& L Conference last year and has publications from 2020 and 2021. In her free time, Marnie likes to ride her bike, study American history, and complete jigsaw puzzles.

Extended Abstract

Institutions of higher education play an essential role in preserving the American democratic society by preparing future graduates to become civically engaged. Traditionally, university professors, administrators, and leaders have relied on the physical college campus to create a collegiate experience that fosters community learning, engagement, and social capital. However, not all learning occurs on a physical campus, and in fact online education is growing exponentially and is now an essential part of higher education.


Key areas related to the civic engagement of campus-based and online students identified in the literature include higher education and democracy (Bowman, 2011; Fitzgerald et al., 2016; Hyde & LaPrad, 2015; Portes, 2000; Skousen, 1981), campus life and civic engagement (Barnhardt et al., 2015; Herman et al., 2015), online education (Allen & Seaman, 2018; Caruth & Caruth, 2013). As faculty, administrators, and leaders, it is important to recognize that higher education has become the purveyor of citizenship and a democracy agent by grooming students for active citizenship and that the collegiate experience helps students learn to become capable citizens. University leadership have embraced online learning and made it an essential part of higher education; therefore, all student populations must be considered when developing civic engagement.

In this session, research on the civic attitude and civic behavior between campus-based and online students will be statistically compared and presented. Research findings will provide university leadership, administration, and faculty with a fresh perspective specifically on the civic engagement of online students and some strategies to foster civic engagement for all student populations. In addition to the presentation of research findings, faculty and administrators attending this session will be able to brainstorm and strategize new best practices for fostering the civic engagement of all college students.