Setting Students up for Success or Failure? Challenges Encountered by Online Students
Abstract: Understanding students’ experiences in online degree programs is essential for educators to know why some students are successful in online courses and why some are not. As part of a program evaluation of newly available fully online graduate programs at a large state university, we surveyed both students who failed to complete and who graduated from those programs. We identified critical factors of the students, the environment, and the programs that played a role in students deciding to withdraw from the courses. Compared to graduates, students who dropped out of programs had statistically significantly lower scores for the factors of confidence/self-efficacy, task value, and resilience. There were no differences between graduates and dropouts on the factors of locus of control nor time management. When exploring specific characteristics of students that may have contributed to their dismissal or withdrawal from the programs, three items were identified as strongly related to leaving: inability to recover from illness (57%), lack of satisfaction with the program (36%), and difficulty juggling multiple roles (29%). Difficulty using technology and computers (7%), as well as low GPA (7%) were among other items associated with students’ inability to complete the program. These factors suggest that many of the students who left the program did so more because of issues related to self-management, such as difficulty coping with illness or difficulty juggling multiple life roles.