Date of Award

Fall 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy and Leadership

First Advisor

Schweizer, Heidi

Second Advisor

Pink, William

Third Advisor

O'Neill, Bonnie


Professional credentials earned through certification programs are becoming an important way to demonstrate competency within a given discipline. With the globalization of business enterprises and associations, these credentials are eagerly sought by people located throughout the world. Candidates for these credentials often study together using virtual environments to prepare for a certification exam. Through a qualitative analysis of interviews with persons participating in such virtual groups, this study investigates what influences their choices among web-enabled study groups, what perceptions characterize their conception of a good virtual study group, and what limitations are encountered in a virtual study environment. This dissertation argues that confidence drawn from an environment that builds trust is an essential component of a good virtual study group. Further, it illuminates how important moderators and facilitators of these groups are in building trust, and the role participant salience plays in order for trust to develop. Finally, it sheds light on the challenges professionals have in preparing for a high stakes exam within a virtual public venue.

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