Author

Ali Dehghan

Date Approved

5-2012

Date Posted

10-21-2012

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

College of Technology

Committee Member

John Dugger, PhD, Chair

Committee Member

Daniel Fields, PhD

Committee Member

Bob Lahidji, PhD

Committee Member

Anne Balazs, PhD

Abstract

Relationship marketing is attracting, maintaining, and, in multi-service organizations, enhancing customer relationships. Educational programs and services, like those of businesses, depend highly on the repeated purchases of their loyal customers. The purpose of this descriptive research is to investigate the relationships between factors that may lead to student loyalty in online graduate educational programs. Specifically, the study seeks to examine the relationships between service quality, technology, trust, commitment and satisfaction, reputation and ultimately loyalty. A new model is presented, which includes the results of testing these variables.

The results of this study concluded that satisfaction with the program has the highest degree of association with student loyalty. Although service quality was found to be one of the key correlates to student loyalty to the program in face-to-face educational settings, it was found to bean insignificant element in assessing student loyalty to the program in online courses. Surprisingly, the construct of technology was found to be an important factor, especially, the role of using synchronous online tools. The findings also support relationship marketing theory (Morgan & Hunt, 1994) and the roles of commitment and trust. However, this research found the role of commitment more important than that of trust. This study recognized reputation of the university as a vital mediator for building a mutually beneficial relationship between students and universities. The research includes implications to help service providers (educational institutions) improve their marketing strategies to ensure that online students (customers) remain with their desired online programs.

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