More students dropping out from on-line classes

October 1, 2010 at 9:08 am 6 comments

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.”

via Professors study how to improve online learning  |

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Darrin Thompson  |  October 1, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I finished my 2 year degree with distance courses 10 years ago. I remember the feeling of isolation both from the professor and the other students. Were there any other students? I don’t even know. I did finish my courses though.

    The can add two observations own experience.

    1. I desperately wanted to socialize with the other students. Even though the work had some challenge to it, I was bored. Half the fun of the class is doing it together and the together was completely missing for me.


    2. When I’m interested in a subject on my own, and select a text on my own, I feel completely different about it. I email the author of the book to get answer keys, I do problem sets. I work alone at reading and understanding the text. If I get stuck on something I email the author for answers.

    Does anyone else spot the irony? The situation is exactly the same, worse even, yet I’m having fun. I don’t necessarily “finish” because I usually have a particular goal which usually doesn’t involve a comprehensive understanding of my text.

    For instance, I wanted to understand a little linear algebra and realized that what little knowledge I ever had about constructing proofs was completely rusted away.

    I got the Haskell Road to Logic Maths and Programming. I did the first 3 chapters and part of chapter 4, just to learn how to do a proof the right way. I did every stinking exercise up to the point I felt I had reached my goal.

    The professor/author was responsive to my occasional questions and provided me an answer key. (And a little admonition not to peek. Still makes me smile to this day.)

    My wonderful experience was exactly the same as my dreadful experience in many ways.

    Maybe distance education needs to be more self-directed to succeed?

  • 2. Alex Rudnick  |  October 1, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    From the article, it looks like they’re looking into the differences between students who take a class online, and those who take it in person. It seems like they may be very different demographics.

    So if the online crowd is a significantly busier group of people, is the higher drop-out rate cause for concern on its own?

    Something I’ve noticed, at least at Georgia Tech and Indiana: we only seem to get course feedback from people who complete a class. When people drop, the information about why they dropped is typically lost!

  • 3. Alan Kay  |  October 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    One thing that seems to be good is that you would not expect dropouts if the students were simply paying for credits. So the schools in question are requiring them to do something at least. Could be boring or bad. Or could be good and hard.



  • 4. HoboHobby  |  October 5, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I think part of the problem is students go into online courses with a mindset that the classes will be easier than normal. That just isn’t the truth, and when they realize this they tend to just give up.

  • 5. foresttrailacade  |  January 10, 2012 at 1:51 am

    Thank you for sharing the experience. Attending classes regularly is difficult for students who don’t have luxury time for it. Online courses provide the flexibility in terms of time with good education. Some are exceptional cases who are not agreed with the concept of online education.

  • […] cool that the College Board is being active on this significant problem (that isn’t made better with online education)!  I do understand that increasing the pass rate without maintaining quality is an empty […]


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