Promoting Online Connections Among Community College Students

Promoting Online Connections Among Community College Students

Rebecca Sailor (Aims Community College, USA), Patricia Rand (Aims Community College, USA) and Stacey Guney (University of North Texas, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3229-3.ch004
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This chapter discusses opportunities for serving community college students in online learning environments. Online community college students represent a unique population of higher education students because they are frequently first-generation students with developmental education requirements—novice students. There is a notable difference in student outcomes between university and community college students in the online format. Community college students typically have higher attrition and lower end-of-course grades in online courses compared to face-to-face courses. Although the reasons for this are still largely unknown, the statistics point to an urgent need to consider the design and delivery of online courses for this unique population. Through an examination of three learning theories, the authors discuss a variety of instructional strategies geared toward learner autonomy, dialogue, metacognition, self-regulation, feedback, affective communication, and multimedia.
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Despite the great promise of college accessibility that online courses offer, community college students perform at disproportionately lower rates than their university counterparts. For example, online community college students are more likely to fail or withdraw, are less likely to return to school, earn fewer academic awards, and transfer less often to four-year schools (Jaggars & Xu, 2010; Xu & Jaggars, 2011a). Interestingly enough, this achievement gap is not as evident among university students (Cavanaugh & Jacquemin, 2015). The reasons for the disparity in performance among community college students is not well understood; differences in student demographics, programs, and academic subject areas may have some influence on these outcomes (Xu & Jaggars, 2014). Some research has shown a relationship between performance and interactivity in the course (Horzum, 2015) as well as the perception of interactivity (Nakajima, Dembo, & Mossler, 2012). Additionally, some studies indicate that non-traditional students may require a higher degree of interaction with their instructor (Mitchell & Hughes, 2014).

Community college students often arrive at the institution with remedial needs (Radford & Horn, 2012) that can impact academic performance, especially in online environments. Approximately 68% of community college students must take at least one remedial class in reading, writing, or math, and many feel more prepared for college than they actually are (Center for Community College Student Engagement, 2016). For students with poor reading and writing skills, online classes may be particularly challenging (Jaggars, Edgecombe, & Stacey, 2013b); online students may struggle not only with the content at hand in an online course but also with the fundamental skills that support learning in that unique environment.

There may be long-term negative effects for online community college students as well. Students who took an online course their first semester were less likely to return to school the following semester or eventually graduate (Jaggars, et al., 2013b). Flynn (2016) describes the consequences of failing a course in the first term of college:

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