There has been some shrinking in my online course rosters since the semester started. College of DuPage faculty receive an e-mail update from the Registration Office with a list of students who have officially dropped the course. We can also cross reference the students who have withdrawn on MyAccess. When students elect to withdraw from a course I will complete a Student Referral Form on MyAccess. The Student Referral Form is forwarded to one of our counselors and the student for follow up. I am concerned about their persistence and overall academic success. Why did they drop the course? What can I do to help? This semester I started with 22 students in English 1102 (16 weeks) and now have 20 students. English 0482 (12 weeks) began with 13 and now there are 10. English 0492 (16 weeks) is holding steady with 20/20 and English 0492 (12 weeks) has dropped slightly 19/20. I have noticed that the spring semester has a higher dropout rate than the fall semester and our developmental students in 0-level courses (offering college preparation but a 0-level course is non-transferable and does not “count” toward their grade point average) have a higher dropout rate than 1000-level college credit bearing courses like English 1102.
We need to work together to increase retention rates. There are a variety of reasons why students will drop a course and the online delivery format is no exception. Students often fail to complete their college credentials because they are overwhelmed, overextended, underfunded and underprepared. Many students work to support themselves or families and have difficulty balancing work and classes. As tuition costs continue to rise, many students are unable to afford registration on top of purchasing textbook materials and paying for course fees.
Nationally, the statistics from many community colleges are grim. Only about 39 percent of students who enter the country’s most accessible postsecondary institutions graduate within six years and a quarter of those who enroll in the fall don’t come back in the spring.
While it may be true that online students as a whole don’t finish their college degrees as quickly as on-campus students, that may be less about the online mode of instruction than about the kinds of students who sign up for online courses. Most online students are nontraditional learners – students who are juggling work, school and family commitments. It would make sense that life sometimes would get in the way of staying in the online course for these students. It does take extra discipline and rigor to stay and succeed in an online course, but students who successfully complete an online course often have expectations consistent with their course experience. They have a clear sense of time management skills and are the type of students who submit assignments on or before the required due date. They thrive in self-directed learning and are motivated to ask questions and read independently — predictors of overall student success in any delivery mode.