Beyond the Books: Building Community and Promoting Student Retention in Online Learning Environments

Beyond the Books: Building Community and Promoting Student Retention in Online Learning Environments

Carolyn N. Stevenson (Purdue University Global, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-909-5.ch013
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Retention of online students is a topic of special interest in higher education. Research shows that the highest percentage of students failing or withdrawing from classes occurs the first term. There is no panacea to retaining and motivating online students. A collaborative effort by instructors, administrators, and students is needed to promote student success the first term and beyond. Building community involves fostering relationships grounded in common interests and is critical to academic success and student retention. Student activities such as clubs and organizations create a bond between student and the institution. This case study will discuss strategies for retaining and motivating online students. Topics include: curriculum initiatives, student mentoring and peer coaching, academic services for poor-performing students, community building through online student activities and websites, promotion of socialization while learning at a distance, and ideas for working with faculty on promoting student success from admissions to graduation.
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Case Description

Technology Concerns

The major technology concerns are related to incorporating new media as a means for promoting student retention through community building activities. Use of podcasts, interactive presentations, and other collaborative tools such as Facebook and Twitter would allow additional means of communication for students not involved directly in a specific club or organization.

Emerging technologies that should be considered for this case include online collaborative spaces, mobile devices, and social networking tools. Webware suites such as Zoho Office ( provide opportunities to share resources, exchange information, and provide an opportunity for socialization beyond the boundaries of the online classroom.

While a number of new media options exist, the challenge lies in training students, faculty, and student advisors on using the technology. Additionally, since the majority of the student population is adult learners, ease and promotion of use needs to occur.

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