Logging off: attrition in online community college courses
The purpose of this study was to investigate factors for student attrition from online community college courses. The demand for online and distance education opportunities is growing on a national level. The increase in online courses is a direct result of the type of individuals who select to learn virtually. Previous research indicates that online students tend to be older, working adults with families and who participate in activities in the community. These traits tend to be indicative of the community college student, yet this research found that the characteristics of an online learner are evolving. In light of the significant growth in online learning, it is important to understand factors for student attrition. A researcher-developed survey that combined information from a pilot study and a convergence of five retention theories was utilized for this study. An invitation to participate in the research was sent to community college students who had recently withdrawn from an online course at an eastern, central community college in Mississippi. Additional data were obtained for all students enrolled in an online course through the community colleges' student information system (SIS) database. The questions were divided into four categories including student demographics, online experience, LMS tools, and social interaction and were analyzed utilizing quantitative methods including descriptive statistics, frequency tables, and chi-square tests of independence. Qualitative data were gathered through an open-ended question on the survey and were sorted and analyzed through a coding process. Results indicated an overall negative perception in regards to a sense of belonging in an online course prior to withdrawing. Online participants rated that they were dissatisfied or did not use several of the tools that are available within the LMS, indicating that further training should be conducted for faculty teaching online courses. Additionally, online participants who participated in the survey acknowledged time management and lack of communication as primary factors for withdrawal from an online course. Given the current enrollment rate and predicted growth of online learning, further studies are warranted to better understand the factors that influence student attrition from online community college courses.