More students dropping out from on-line classes
In the research literature, there are signs that distance education can be done well, and there are certainly lots of calls to increase use of distance education. But on the ground, the story is less optimistic. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is the local Atlanta paper, and Kennesaw is a growing university in the Atlanta suburbs. They are finding that their on-line courses are having substantially higher drop-out rates. Maybe part of the challenge is getting the research into practice.
Colleges in Georgia and nationwide are offering more online courses every year, but there’s a glitch in the system: Students are substantially more likely to drop classes they take through a computer than courses they take in class.
At Kennesaw State University 15 percent of students dropped one traditional business class, while 29 percent dropped the online version of the course during the spring 2009 semester, said business professor Stacy Campbell. Nationally, dropout rates for online courses are between 15 to 20 percent higher.
Faculty use different strategies to combat this problem — calling students at home, sending e-mails, even asking students to sign contracts pledging to stay on top of assignments. Campbell and five other professors at Kennesaw State’s Coles College of Business wondered whether these methods work and tested them during the spring 2009 semester.
They didn’t work. Students exposed to the strategies dropped out as often as those who weren’t, according to the study that will be published this month.
“We really tried to provide some personal touches that students may miss out on by taking a class online,” Campbell said. “The students seemed to like what we did and it helped those who stayed in the class. But it really didn’t do anything to keep students from dropping the course.”