Over the last several decades, we have seen an explosion of online learning. The proliferation of the internet, mobile devices and mobile applications is increasing the opportunities for adults to further their education. (Keengwe, J. & Kidd, T., 2010) Learning is now available globally, and the learning is available at any time and in any place. These virtual universities and online programs are expanding the opportunities for adults, who because of geography, work, and family commitments, cannot enroll in traditional brick and mortar schools.
Identifying and comparing the traits and characteristics of online dropouts versus persistent adult learners is an important step in assisting ...view middle of the document...
In conjunction with the benefit to the student, there are significant benefits to the university, community and workforce. Providing for and enrolling adults into collegiate programs is creating a connection between the educational community and the workforce for the betterment of both. The online system of education is increasing both the quantity and quality of students while expanding opportunities to minorities and those individuals choosing a more rural lifestyle. There is now an influx of adults with non-traditional backgrounds into academia. (Keengwe, J. & Kidd, T., 2010)
Furthermore, with the growth of online learning and the influx of adults into higher education, research has shifted to examining the rates of dropouts versus persistent learners looking at opportunities for program enhancement and development. Tyler-Smith (2009) notes the problem of increasing dropout rates with estimates 10-20% higher than on-campus programs. While not providing exact numbers, a separate study by Hiltz, Phipps & Merisotis concluded there are a higher percentage of dropouts in online programs versus traditional on campus programs. (Park & Choi, 2009)
Park & Choi (2009) found that a lack of family support and courses that are not designed in such a way as to engage and stimulate the adult as major reasons for students dropping out. Personal satisfaction with learning just a portion of the course, conflicts between family obligations, work obligations, and the demands of study, along with a loss of personal motivation to continue are sited as additional reasons for adults to dropout. (Tyler-Smith, 2006) Lee (2013) found that a lack of financial support led to increased dropout rates. Interestingly, Lee also concluded that a lack of family or work support did not appear to be contributing factors in direct contradiction to the studies by Choi, Tyler-Smith and others.
Having identified the characteristics and reasons for adults making a decision to dropout, the persistent adult online learner presents some opposing and unique characteristics. With older adults comes a willingness to share and make observations based on life and work experiences, which translate to adults posting more frequently to an online discussion than their younger counterparts. (Chyung, 2007)
Persistent learners have positive support from their family, employers, and friends. This support is necessary for adult learners who must find a...