A New Model of Online Student Service in the Digital Age: Increasing Retention Based on Service Satisfaction

A New Model of Online Student Service in the Digital Age: Increasing Retention Based on Service Satisfaction

Sallie A. Reissman (Wilmington University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0877-9.ch006
OnDemand PDF Download:
$30.00
List Price: $37.50

Abstract

During the fall 2011 semester, 1,089 students dropped an online course at Wilmington University. This loss totaled 11.8% of the initial online enrollment for the fall semester. This number is in staggering contrast to the drop rate for an on-campus course at the university: 6.6%. This chapter uses Wilmington University as a case study to explore why this problem exists and how to solve it: using student survey and administrative data to look at student expectations and satisfaction with current academic and co-curricular services; technical and service needs associated with online learning factors that facilitate course completion and recommend interventions to help keep students on track to complete courses.
Chapter Preview
Top

Introduction

Even as higher education enrollments decline, online learning enrollments continue to increase (Allen & Seaman, 2016). Allen and Seaman (2016) reported that a total of 5.8 million students took online courses in fall 2014. But while online enrollments are growing annually, student retention in traditional on-site programs is still higher than in online education. Many factors, such as the infrastructure, quality of support systems, quality of content and assessment, and peer support networks influence the online learning experience and decrease the risk of attrition (AACSB, 1999).

Providing effective, efficient online student services is a relatively new challenge for higher education administrators (Dalziel, 2001). Roughly defined, the term “student support services” describes a variety of academic and nonacademic interactions that the student has with a college or university (Dirr, 1999). It includes pre-enrollment services (promotion, orientation), admissions and registration, academic advising, library and bookstore services, career counseling, tutoring, and social support services.

This chapter presents a case study of Wilmington University and its five-year-old distance learning program, to explore the role of online student services in online learners’ course completion, retention rates and satisfaction with the university. Specifically, this chapter will use student survey and administrative information to explore the following data points:

  • Characteristics of student participants;

  • Student expectations and satisfaction with current academic and co-curricular services;

  • Technical and service needs associated with online learning (e.g., electronic communication, technical difficulties);

  • Reasons students drop out of online courses;

  • Factors that facilitate course completion, including student persistence and social interactions; and service directors’ recommendations.

Top

Literature Review

Current literature indicates the significance of online learning in higher education. The 21% growth in online enrollments far exceeds the less than 2% growth of the overall higher education student population (Allen & Seaman, 2010). The raw numbers are even more noteworthy. In 2009, 5.6 million students took a course online, a 1 million increase from the previous year (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Nearly 30% of higher education students take at least one online course, and there is no compelling evidence that the continued robust growth in online learning enrollments is slowing (Allen & Seaman, 2010).

Frankola (2001) claimed that adult learners drop out of online courses because of lack of time, lack of management oversight, lack of motivation, problems with technology, lack of student support, individual learning preferences, poorly designed courses, and substandard or inexperienced instructors. Distance learners are looking for online student support services that are easy to use and available at their convenience. Sahin (2007) stressed that learner perceptions and attitudes are central in the development and quality of distance education.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Attrition: The number of students who enroll in online courses yet never complete their respective course(s).

Success: A final grade higher than a D+ or a grade of P for passing.

Dropouts: Participants who enroll in an online course but do not complete the work as assigned and may receive an FA (failure by absence) or W (withdrawal).

Distance Education, Distance Learning, and Online Learning: “Formal education in which a majority of Instruction occurs while teacher and learner are separate” ( Verduin & Clark, 1991 , p.1).

Student Retention and Student Persistence: The number of students who completed the online course for which they enrolled.

Service Director: The head of a department that provides academic or social services.

Online Student Service: The variety of interactions that the student has with a college or university ( Dirr, 1999 ). It includes services provided electronically, technical support, admissions and registration, academic advising, library and bookstore services, career counseling, tutoring, social support services, etc.

Enrollment: Students who register for all (100%) online courses.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Reset