As online learning continues to boost in popularity, more institutions of higher learning are focusing on a common occurrence practiced among universities and colleges offering online courses (Street, n. d.). There is significant growth in the online market because students working full time are the fastest growing part of the learner population and they bring commercial tuition dollars with them. It is estimated that five of six online students have some type of employment and would not be able to attend customary face-to-face classes (Thomas, 2001). The quantity of universities offering online education courses and the amount of students registering for online courses are on the rise. ...view middle of the document...
Poorer retention rates are immediately linked with institutional performance that is not as high a quality. The student attributes of online graduate students are fundamentally different from customary undergraduate learners. Without recognizing these primary variations, the public is led to trust that online education programs are substandard to face-to-face programs because of their suspected lower retention and graduation rates. These assertions are made even though the reality that graduate student retention and graduation rates are not always considered and official reporting is not mandatory (Howell, Laws, & Lindsay, 2004). Even though distance learning is one of the most opportune ways to educate the academic community, it endures a number of tribulations. Each online program is unique and the reasons given for leaving a program may be specific to the nature and uniqueness of the program.
Review of Literature
The number of adult learners who participate in distance learning has rapidly grown in the last two decades (Park & Choi, 2009). The market in general was estimated at 2.3 million students in 2002 (Katz-Stone, 2000). There are roughly 17,000 courses available online, with more than 50% of Western universities offering some form of online course (Lowe, 2000). Almost 200 colleges offer online graduate degrees (Pethokoukis, 2002). Approximately 54,000 online courses were offered by 1,680 different institutions in 2002 (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2003). Over 1.9 million students enrolled in online courses in the fall of 2003 and over 2.6 million students were expected in 2004 (Allen & Seman, 2004). According to the outcome of a study overseen by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) (2001), 56 % of all degree-granting higher education institutions offered online courses during the 2000-2001 scholastic year. In 2003, 34% of 1000 representatives of higher education offered an inclusive distance learning degree program (Allen & Seaman, 2004). Online courses are striking for students and teachers because they are not inhibited by time and place. In addition, with the fast growth of technology, the online education business is emerging considerably (Lee & Choi, 2011).
One study the author reviewed focused exclusively on an online master’s degree program offered by the Department of Human Resource Education (HRE) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This program, called HRE Online, awards a master’s degree upon completion of 9 graduate courses. The specific questions addressed in this study included:
• Why did students drop out of the online program?
• When did they dropout in the online program?
• Are there factors that can predict the likelihood of a student dropping out of an online program?
Students who dropped out of the HRE Online master’s degree program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were the center of this study. The literature showed that students enrolled...