Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea Hubbard, PhD, Chair Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Member Antonio Jiménez-Luque, PhD, Member


Refugee Education, Online Education, Human Development



Currently, only 3% of refugees are pursuing higher education opportunities compared to the 37% higher education participation rate globally. There is an urgent need for quality academic work to leave behind the endless descriptive accounts of refugee life and move toward identifying effective strategies and successful solutions that could facilitate the integration of refugees into higher education. Technology has proffered some hope in providing access to public education for marginalized populations. This study looked specifically at how one online education organization attempts to address refugee education and multiple barriers that prevent the majority of the world’s university-age refugee youth from accessing tertiary education. This research is a single case study of Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL), an NGO that has been using digital innovation to provide higher education opportunities to refugees and underserved communities around the globe. This study focuses on JWL’s operations in the Middle East and Africa regions, specifically Jordan, Iraq, Kenya, and Malawi. Interviews with JWL’s administrators and staff as well as an analysis of the organization’s documents were conducted to gain a more thorough understanding of the organization and its leadership. In addition, the online learning platform of JWL was analyzed and observations of its several online courses were completed to better understand their learning processes, specifically, the organization’s innovative educational model. JWL’s case study reveals that online higher education represents a significant benefit for the refugee youth that have no access to tertiary education. Despite some of its challenges, this online educational model supports refugees’ academic progress by constantly adapting its pedagogical approach, curricula, technology, and general support system to respond to their needs. Considering the very limited academic research on initiatives that support refugee education, this close look at one distance educational model for refugee students can serve as a valuable resource for those who are attempting to help a greater number of refugee students: educators, policy makers of countries hosting large refugee populations, local and international NGOs, and the international educational community more generally.

Keywords: refugee education, online education, human development

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies