Will You Succeed in Online Classes??? (contributed by NM Program Associate Dennis Bills, MA, MEd)

Online courses have higher dropout rates than traditional classroom courses.  Is it possible to predict who will drop out of online classes?  Wouldn’t it be nice to know, before choosing an online class, whether or not you will make it to the end?  

We might not be able to predict exactly who will drop out of online classes, but we do know that two of the reasons students choose online classes are often the top two reasons that students drop online classes.  If students know what those two reasons are, they can examine whether they are selecting online courses for the right reasons.

online courses

Self-selection is a process by which students choose between online and traditional courses. Self-Selection Bias hypothesizes that the very reasons some students choose online courses are also the reasons those same students eventually drop out:  1) Students who look for easier educational paths may be under the mistaken impression that online classes are easier. 2) Students who feel that their lives are too busy for traditional courses may be under the impression that online courses will fit better into their lifestyles. Both reasons may set up some students for disillusionment and eventual withdrawal. In the first place, students may quickly discover that non-traditional courses are not always easier and may choose to drop out once they encounter difficulty. In the second place, students may quickly discover that adding a non-traditional course to an already full schedule adds unanticipated stresses that may influence a student to dropout. In both cases, unmet expectations play a major role  (Xu & Jaggers, 2011).  

The best way to combat against these two reasons for dropping out is to not kid yourself going in.  If you are taking an online course because you feel it will be easier or because you think it will fit better into an already busy schedule, be prepared for a rude awakening.  However, if you are braced for the fact that you will have to work just as hard to do well in an online class and that you will have to work hard to fit the class into your busy schedule, then you will not be surprised when things get tough.

Xu, D., & Jaggars, S. (2011). The effectiveness of distance education across Virginia’s community colleges: evidence from introductory college-level math and English courses. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 33(3), 360-377.

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