Predicting Successful Online Learners

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Abstract

The lack of success and the high attrition rate of adult online learners enrolled in universities were studied.  The research showed an increase in adult learners enrolled in online education courses and explained the significance of the ease of enrolling in online education versus the conflicts of balancing this with everyday life.  Research showed many reasons why there has been an upward trend in enrolling in online education.  The basis for this study was conducted in a public university located in the northeastern United States.  Research from this study is integral for institutions considering adapting an online component to their university system, and to universities currently offering an online component, but that would like to examine its effectiveness or ineffectiveness, and possibly decrease their overall attrition rate.  The consideration of high attrition rate is vital especially for universities that depend on their external funding, and whose retention rate means higher financial support.  Additionally, universities that report a higher attrition rate are subject to their quality and credibility being questioned.  The study was conducted using:  five faculty members, ten online adult students, and five university administrators.  Through the usage of volunteer interviews, and surveys, participants described their firsthand experiences with online learning.  The surveys were designed using open-ended questions that asked participants to explain what they felt were reasons for high attrition rates as well as what made students successful or unsuccessful in the online learning medium based on personal experience.  The study found that for adult learners to be successful, universities have to offer additional support resources to students and supplementary professional development to professors in this role.