Improving Success Rates in Online Education
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Improving Success Rates in Online Education. Addressing Persistence, Retention, Advising, Quality Educational Programs, Technology, and Services to Promote Student Success League for Innovation Philadelphia, 2012. Outline of the Presentation. Introduction of Presenters A Little Background

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Improving success rates in online education

Improving Success Rates in Online Education

Addressing Persistence, Retention, Advising, Quality Educational Programs, Technology, and Services to Promote Student Success

League for Innovation

Philadelphia, 2012

Outline of the presentation

Outline of the Presentation

  • Introduction of Presenters

  • A Little Background

  • What the Data Shows

  • Elements for Success

    • 5 Pillars

    • Student Characteristics

    • Leadership

    • Technology

    • Faculty/Teaching and Learning

    • Support Services

Improving success rates in online education

Dr. Kathryn Campbell

  • Faculty Chair, Higher Education Programs -Enrollment Management, Leadership for Higher Education, Nursing Education, Postsecondary and Adult Education and Professional Studies

  • Former Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean in 3 California Community Colleges

  • Recently announced the new Master of Science in Higher Education with the following specializations

    • Higher Education Leadership and Administration with the following emphases

      • Community College Leadership

      • Program Administration

    • Adult Education

Improving success rates in online education

Dr. Ed Gould

  • Currently Instructor in Capella University Graduate School of Education in Higher Education Leadership, former Assoc. Dean for SOE @ Capella

  • Expertise and Courses In Leadership, Community College Leadership and Enrollment Management including Advising and Retention in Higher Education

  • Former CEO of 4 California Community College Districts, Former Vice Chancellor of Student Services and Special Programs for the California Community College System

  • Now (Semi) Retired

Cc s at the crossroads again

CC’s at the Crossroads, Again!

Accountability is not new to community colleges

  • “Statutory, regulatory and administrative requirements should be examined to ensure that services improve student success and increased course completions are supported and encouraged.

  • Student success should be the focus of a reinvented professional development effort for community college trustees, administrators, faculty and staff.”

    Community College League of California, 2011, 2020 Vision.Retrieved from

“Community college reform legislation in California mandates the development and implementation of a comprehensive accountability model. Recently, the state legislature also mandated the implementation of a performance-based funding program intended to improve educational outcomes in the state’s two-year colleges.”

RP Group, May 2, 2001, RP Group Proceedings.Retrieved from

Headlines and reports accountability

Headlines and Reports – Accountability

Accountability reports

Accountability Headlines

  • Accountability Effort for Community Colleges Pushes Forward

    Chronicle of Higher Education, April 19, 2010

  • Community College Accountability

    Inside Higher Ed, October 7, 2009

  • Accountability Framework for 2-Year Colleges Progresses in Pilot Test

    Chronicle of Higher Education, April 11, 2011

  • Community-College Group Releases Accountability Measures

    Chronicle of Higher Education, November 30 , 2011

  • 2010 Performance Accountability Report Maryland Public Colleges and Universities

  • Accountability Reporting for the California Community Colleges

  • CC Chancellor’s Office 4-2011

“The Buck Pauses, But Does Not Actually Stop Here”

What the data shows

What the data shows

  • Wholly online degree programs enroll over 25% of all US Students, and many institutions are reporting more than 35% of all credit hours earned online. (Boles, Cass, Levin, Schroeder, & Smith, 2011)

  • Failure rates are 10-20% higher in online courses (Herbert, 2006)

  • Retention in online courses can be as high as 35 – 50% lower than traditional classes (Nitsch, 2003)

  • Successful practices have been found to improve course completion to within 2-3 % of traditional classes. (Boles, Cass, Levin, Schroeder, & Smith, 2011)

Improving success rates in online education

Elements of Online Learning Success

5 pillars of online learning sloan c

5 Pillars of Online Learning – Sloan C










































Eleven characteristics of colleges focused on student success

Eleven Characteristics of colleges focused on student success

Elements for Successful Retention Starts with a Plan

  • Student Engagement

  • Quality Teaching and Learning

  • Leadership committed to a culture of student success and completion

  • Faculty and academic leadership commitment to best practices in student learning

  • Responsive Student Services focused on student goal attainment

  • Appropriate and strong technological infrastructure and Learning Management Systems

  • Dedicated Financial Resources to learning outcomes and student success

  • On going staff development

  • Consider Service Learning

Institution wide commitment to promoting student completion

Institutional evaluation of success efforts based on data

Integrated process of evaluation, planning and resource allocation

Student Learning Outcomes

Systematic assessment of student learning

Student participation in diverse learning experiences aligned with outcomes

Effective developmental ed and tutoring

Student persistence focused student support services

Emphasis on student persistence and learning when hiring

Leadership focus on persistence, learning, & attainment

Key policies with a focus on accountability and persistence

McClenney & McClenney (2010)

It takes an institution a team effort

It Takes an Institution - A Team Effort

  • Executive Leadership Support

  • Commitment from faculty and faculty leadership

  • Student Services programs

    • Advising

    • Mentors (Peers)

    • Tutoring & Link to Social Learning Network

    • Online Orientation

  • Technology and Learning Platform Infrastructure

  • Course Design and Instructional Quality

  • Online Learning and Retention Plan

  • Faculty and Staff Development

  • Student Preparedness

  • Effective Assessment and Evaluation

Abel, 2005

Tinto, 1993

Successful online student characteristics

Successful Online Student Characteristics

  • Sense of Belonging

  • Prior Academic Success

  • High Internal Locus of Control

  • Self-reliance and persistence

  • Time-on-task

  • High Tolerance for Working at Own Pace and Independently

  • Attitude to look at problems with online learning as something to overcome – high tolerance for frustration and ability to navigate course platform independently

  • Self-motivated

Morris & Finnegan, 2008

Leadership commitment

Leadership Commitment

  • A long term commitment to online education

  • A desire to provide education to students consistent with their needs and the mission of the college

  • A commitment to putting full programs online

  • Investment of significant financial and other resources

  • Create a culture amongst employees of the importance of offering online education

  • Commitment to evaluation and assessment of all learning with a focus on accountability

    Abel, 2005

At least I’m not managing change in education

At Least I’m not trying to manage change in education

Common success factors for online success

Common Success Factors for Online Success

  • Support resources dedicated to the online programs

  • Development of an effective online project plan, including schedule and milestones

  • Prioritization from institutional leadership to choose educational programs that have the most impact

  • Program design and redesign sessions and resources to help faculty create better courses and programs

  • Pedagogy defined to reflect the uniqueness of the online program and teaching online

  • Involvement of enrollment management in program planning

  • Development of success measures and an assessment and evaluation process

Abel, 2005

Technological infrastructure and support

Technological Infrastructure and Support

  • Faculty and Student Satisfaction Requires

    • 24 x 7 Help Desk if possible

    • Learning Management System/CMS that is user friendly

    • Synchronous as well as asynchronous tools

    • Available Technological Training Modules

    • Access to an Online Library

    • 99.99+ up time

  • Administrative Tools

    • Assessment of Time-on-Task by Students and Faculty

    • Tool to measure likely success of student taking online learning

  • Online Student Services and Support Services

Essential elements for effective online courses

Essential Elements for Effective Online Courses

  • Course developer

  • Course designer

  • Subject matter expert

  • Facilitator or Moderator/Instructor or lecturer

  • Student Advisor or Counselor

  • Technology Trainer

  • Program Coordinator

  • Technological Support for Faculty and Students

Faculty the center of successful online learning

Faculty the Center of Successful Online Learning

  • Be Present in the course room

  • Create a supportive online community

  • Clear Expectations for students and for your participation

    • Time commitments

    • How to communicate

  • Synchronous and Asynchronous activities

  • Variety of group and individual experiences, Create Learning Communities

  • Get student feedback early

  • Discussion assignments should invite responses, questions, dialogue, & reflections

Faculty best practices continued

Faculty Best Practices Continued

The Digital Immigrant

  • Focus on digital content that is accessible online

  • Plan a good closing or wrap up experience

  • Focus on the learner as your priority

    • Get to know them and what is going on in their student and personal lives, and in their heads

    • Ask: Can the learner use what you’re teaching?

Factors for success in online learning

Factors for Success in Online Learning

  • A Comprehensive Orientation at the beginning and during 1st Semester – Student Success Course (Whatever happened to freshman orientation?)

  • Explicit and repeated online discussion about course goals and procedures in the first weeks of the course, even when available in the syllabus and website

  • Instructors social and managerial performance in the course may be more important to some students then pedagogical feedback.

Factors for online teaching success cont

Factors for Online Teaching Success cont.

  • Early consistent contact with all students and encourage self-reliance and group identity to establish locus of control in the student.

  • Faculty should be prepared to act as a liaison to technology assistance.

  • Discussions are an important key to successful student retention online and the teacher, and if possible even the success manager or mentor should be very active.

Morris & Finnegan, 2008

Effective pedagogical techniques

Effective Pedagogical Techniques

  • Collaborative Tasks and Group Problem Solving

  • Problem-Based Learning and Case-based Strategies

  • Discussion Threads

  • Simulations or role play

  • Socratic Questioning

  • Guided Learning

  • Discovery

  • Modeling of Solutions

Concept of student success center

Concept of Student Success Center

  • Student Support Services Online

    • Developmental Education

    • Tutoring

    • Social Learning Network

    • Assessment/Diagnostics

    • Orientation Course

    • Special Services

    • Consider Service Learning

An online portal where online learners can meet their Student Success Manager and have access to :


Advising and Academic Counseling



Career Development

Enrollment & Access Services

Financial Aid

Mentoring Services


The Student Success Manager can be the advisor and is the coordinator of services for the student.

Online advising one stop shop

Online Advising - One-Stop-Shop

  • Instant Messaging

  • Webcam Greeting if live, Video if Asynchronous

  • Consider Skype as a tool

  • Texting Capability

  • Class schedule/ Academic and Career Counseling

  • Advising Form

  • Pre-made information videos

  • Faculty Early Alert System

  • Why Online Advising

    • Students are online

    • Better Retention

    • Traditional Students can use it

    • Faculty members can advise online as well for office hours and tutorial

    • Promotes academic success

    • Efficiency

    • Improve overall advising quality

Waldner, McDaniel, & Widener, 2011

Improving success rates in online education

Virtual Advising Shell

  • Program Catalog

  • Course Syllabi & Textbook Link

  • Do’s and Don'ts

  • Important Links

  • Student Forms

  • Welcome and Introduction to Program

  • Job Seekers Handbook

  • Internship Information

  • Scholarships

  • Placement

  • Student Training and Technical Information

  • Links to Records Forms (Add, Drop, Transcripts, etc.

  • Tutoring and Writing Center Info

Waldner, McDaniel, & Widener, 2011

In conclusion

In Conclusion

Successful Online Retention

Takes Planning and Evaluation

Is a lot like successful retention of traditional students

Strategic Plan for Online Learning and Online Retention

Leadership Commitment

Quality Teaching

Teaching techniques that reach today’s diverse learners from the digital native to the digital migrant

Great teachers create great online retention

Student and Support Services must be exemplary

Both Traditional and Online must be outstanding in order for the institution to meet the learning needs of this great nation

Improving success rates in online education

  • Q & A

Improving Success Rates in Online Education



  • Abel, R. (2005). Implementing Best Practices in Online Learning. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 28 (3) Retrieved from

  • Amukamara, R. (2012). An Exploration of Higher Education Student Services Counselors in Retaining Students of Color in Phoenix, Arizona (Unpublished doctoral dissertation proposal). Capella University, Minneapolis.

  • Boettcher, J. Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online: Quick Guide for New Online Faculty. Retrieved from

  • Boles, E., Cass, F., Levin, C., Schroeder, R., & Smith, S. (2010). Sustaining Students: Retention Strategies in an Online Program. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 33 (4) Retrieved from

  • Community College League of California. (2011). 2020 Vision. Retrieved from

  • Grant, M. & Thornton, H. (2007). Best Practices in Undergraduate Adult-Centered Online Learning: Mechanisms for Course Design and Delivery. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3 (4). Retrieved from

  • Herbert, M. (2006). Staying the Course: A Study in Online Student Satisfaction and Retention. Retrieved from

  • Hill, C. (2009). Tips for Improving Online Retention. Retrieved from

References continued

References Continued

  • McClenney, B. & McClenney, K. (2010) . Community College Inventory: Focus on Student Persistence, Learning, and Attainment. Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin, Community College Leadership Program.

  • Morris, L. & Finnegan, C. (2008). Best Practices in Predicting and Encouraging Student Persistence and Achievement Online. Journal of College Student Retention, 10 (1), 55-64.

  • Nitsch, W.B. (2003). Examination of Factors Leading to Student Retention in Online Graduate Education. Unpublished course paper, School of Education, Capella University, Minneapolis.

  • RP Group, May 2, 2001, RP Group Proceedings. Retrieved from

  • Tinto, V. (1993). The Assessment of Student Retention Programs. Retrieved from

  • Waldner, L., McDaniel, D. & Widener, M. (2011) E-Advising Excellence: The New Frontier in Faculty Advising. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7 (4). Retrieved from

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