Online Student Retention Requires a Collaborative Approach
Institutions of higher education are increasingly using online courses and fully-online programs as tools to increase enrollment. There are many issues surrounding the subject of online education as an enrollment strategy. For instance, attrition rates are higher in online courses and online programs than in the face-to-face environment (Carr, 2000; Moody, 2004). It has been well-established that academic and social integration are key factors influencing retention, yet many institutions do not take a systematic approach to ensuring adequate integration opportunities for online students.
Faculty members, at the front-lines of the retention issue, can help to improve student success rates by providing a sense of community in the online classroom and making meaningful interaction and student engagement a priority. Functional units of student services should work collaboratively with faculty members to expand the breadth of support for online learners, with the conviction that retention is everyone’s issue, and fostering student success is everyone’s responsibility.
The following section provides a sample model in which three areas of student services work together to support online faculty members in identifying at-risk students and using analytics to detect potential risks and address issues so as to avoid attrition.
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Carr, S. (2000). As distance education comes of age, the challenge is keeping the students. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 46(23), A39-A41.
Colton, G. M., Connor, U. J., Jr., Shultz, E. L., & Easter, L. M. (1999). Fighting attrition: One freshman year program that targets academic progress and retention for at-risk students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 1(2), 147-162.
Moody, J. (2004). Distance education: Why are the attrition rates so high? The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 5(3), 205-210.
Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the cause and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago.
This article was originally written by Anne Reed for Faculty Focus. Click here to view the original article.
Anne Reed is an instructional designer at the University of Buffalo, Office of Online Education, Graduate School of Education.