Date of Award

Spring 6-10-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Education


College of Education, Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Thomas Noel

Second Advisor

Melissa Bradford

Third Advisor

Howard Rosing and Karl Nass


Service learning (SL) is an experiential learning pedagogy that merges real-life community service activities with structured reflection. Electronic-Service Learning (e-SL) is a blended pedagogy that combines online education and SL. The pandemic has significantly prompted the evolution of SL toward e-SL. In planning pedagogy initiatives, educators must not overlook the changing demographics of their student bodies. Within higher education in the U.S., 75% of students have at least one nontraditional student characteristic. Yet, the perceptions and experiences of nontraditional students on e-SL are critically underexplored. Thus, this dissertation examined the potential and value of developing e-SL with particular attention to nontraditional students’ perspectives. Guided by the theoretical framework of Freire’s educational philosophy on critical pedagogy and problem-posing education, and the conceptual framework of Kolb’s Cycle of Experiential Learning, this dissertation adopted narrative inquiry to capture the detailed stories of three nontraditional students. The key findings revealed: (1) prior volunteer activities and work experiences played a prominent role in shaping participants’ interests, expectations, and behaviors in e-SL; (2) e-SL validated its value as an experiential learning pedagogy, where the phases of Reflective Observation and the Formation of Abstract Conceptualization were critical; (3) e-SL attracted nontraditional students given that it offers a balance between school and other responsibilities, but interpersonal outcomes and the sense of belonging to the institutional community were compromised. By uncovering nontraditional students’ perceptions and experiences in e-SL, this dissertation provided timely insight for educators to advance e-SL practices in the digital age.