With the advancements of technology, society is able to reach more degree-seeking students by offering online higher education. Many students are fulltime parents, husbands, wives and employees working hard to better their lives, and the lives of their family members through higher education. The popularity of online education is further seen in that the 21% growth rate for online enrollments, which far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population, with at least 5.6 million students enrolled in online courses in the fall of 2009(Conway k., Hachey A., Waldis C., 2012, para. 1). Due to this new growth in the adult education filed, it is necessary to study and research the specific institutional strategies associated with higher retention rates of online degree seeking students. Retention rates at all institutions are extremely important to follow due to business aspects, positive educational growth in society, political reasons and higher income potential for the students upon completion of their degree (Budden et al. 2010).
“Intuitively, students who take a majority of courses online risk being removed from the academic atmosphere and may lack personal interaction with faculty” (Chong Ho Yu Ph.D. 2007, pg. 3). Almost every university or college offers online education to the students. This creates a risk of students feeling less academically integrated with their higher education institution. My research question is, “What specific institutional strategies are associated with higher retention rates of online degree seeking students?” My hypothesis is that students taking online classes, that feel more integrated academically with their university, are more likely to complete their degrees.
Review of Literature
Vincent Tinto’s model (1975) describes in detail what integration means: it claims that whether a student persists or drops out is quite strongly predicted by their degree of academic integration, and social integration (Draper, 2003). For the purposes of my study I will solely research and study the academic reasons, if any, for student retention rates with online learning. The factors for academic integration described by Draper, 2003, are:
• Grade / mark performance
• Personal development
• "Do you think you are doing well academically?" (Academic self-esteem)
• Enjoying your subject(s).
• Enjoying studying your subject(s): i.e. the study patterns required/requested are or are not enjoyable.
• Identification with academic norms and values
• Identification with one's role as a student
In one study Salinitri, (2005), describes a mentoring program having a positive outcome on retention rates especially for low-achieving students. The study indicates that a mentoring program has the best results if implemented the first year of study Salinitri, (2005). Many online students begin their education without the face-to-face interaction of an academic...