Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communications Media

First Advisor

Mary Beth Leidman, Ed.D.

Second Advisor

Jay Start, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Melvin Jenkins, Ed.D.


This study examines the impact of technology on at-risk digital natives who have transitioned from high school to college, at a regional campus of a Midwestern Pennsylvania University. While the term digital native has become widely used by technology commentators, the author has introduced a new term, “at-risk digital natives,” to the world of academia and information communication technology. An “at-risk digital native” is defined as a subset of the digital native generation who is at-risk of failing or withdrawing from college due to numerous social and learning challenges, yet were born after 1980, and are considered experts in the use and manipulation of technology and social media. A secondary focus of the research study is students in transition from high school to college, as the researcher acknowledges this period as a crucial time in a college student’s life. Therefore, the researcher uses an existing five-week motivational seminar, designed to assist at-risk students as they transition from high school to their first year of college. For this study, a technology component was added to one version the seminar, and twenty students are divided into two groups, where one group participated in a traditional classroom environment and the second group participated online. The researcher found that overall, at-risk digital natives preferred face-to-face interaction to an online learning experience. At-risk digital natives have varying needs that do not necessarily have a digital component, and while they may be experts at using social media and technologies to function daily, there remains a desire for face-to-face interaction or the traditional lecture-style delivery. As a result of this study, educators and information communication technology commentators will have the task of meeting the needs of at-risk digital natives, and balancing the need for face-to-face interaction with their propensity for the use of technology.