Student Retention Is A Top Priority For Both Traditional And Online Higher Education Institutions

Student Retention Is A Top Priority For Both Traditional And Online Higher Education Institutions

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Student retention is a top priority for both traditional and online higher education institutions. Patterson and McFadden (as cited in Boston et al., 2010) explain that recent research shows “dropout rates to be six to seven times higher in online programs” (p. 67) than in traditional face to face programs. According to Ice, Gibson, Boston, & Becher (2011) institutions are judged on student grades, achievement, and retention rates making the topic of attrition in higher education an important issue. There are a number of factors that determine a student’s ability to be successful in an online course. These reasons range from work schedules to personal motivation to time management. Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000) developed the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework which offers a unique condition that fosters relationships, motivation, and interest which are key to student success. The CoI model creates an enhanced sense of community thereby increasing student retention in online programs by increasing student involvement and overall learning satisfaction.
The CoI as described by Boston et al. (2010) is a “theoretical framework that explains the online learning experience in terms of interactions between three overlapping presences” (p. 68). Garrison et al. (2000) lists these as cognitive presence, social presence, and teaching presence. Each of these presences is interdependent and each must be developed thoroughly and reinforce one another within the course. As each presence is reinforced it adds strength to the other two, existing in a closed loop of cause and effect. Research conducted by Ice (2015) found that the strengths of the presences possess higher levels of importance at different times throughout a course. Teachi...

... middle of paper ... the overall learning satisfaction and increased student involvement which aids in retaining students throughout the duration of their program. The cyclical nature of the Community of Inquiry framework currently provides the best pedagogical concept to combat student attrition in online programs. Teaching presence lays the groundwork for social presence to flourish which then allows students to freely create the necessary cognitive presence to be successful in their coursework. According to Njiro (2015) “by practicing CoI, program facilitators are able to make use of varying methods of teaching and learning to equip adult learners with ways to deal with the unique diversity of adult learners” (p. 127). The enhanced sense of community will allow students to gain the appropriate skills needed for success and ensure the continuation in their online program.

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