Preventing Online Dropouts: Nothing Works

Apparently people who attend online colleges have very high dropout rates. More interestingly, it doesn’t appear there’s any way to stop it. According to an article by Marc Parry in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Students drop out of online classes at rates 15 percent to 20 percent higher than traditional ones…. Kennesaw State saw that problem reflected in its own classes, so a group of the university’s professors set up a study to find the best strategies that might improve retention.

And it turns out there are no strategies that work. This is according to a study by researchers at Kennesaw State University soon to appear in the International Journal of Management in Education.

In the study academics tried a variety of strategies that previous research implied might keep people in college. Researchers separated subjects into two groups. One group got calls at home, quizzed on the syllabus, broken up into small discussion groups, and extra help to develop “personal connections” with other students and the material. The other group got nothing.

But it didn’t matter. The dropout rates of both groups were the same.

According to one of the researchers, assistant professor of management Stacy Campbell, “If someone was going to drop out of the class, they were going to drop out of the class.” Frustrating.

Then again, it’s possible that students drop out of online programs because they discover the degrees they’re working to earn are actually worthless. In this case keeping them in might not be an effort really worth pursuing.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer