A Longitudinal Study of Online Learners: Shoppers, Swirlers, Stoppers, and Succeeders as a Function of Demographic Characteristics

June 15, 2013

“Look at your past. Your past has determined where you are at this moment. What you do today will determine here you are tomorrow. Are you moving forward or standing still?” Tom Hopkins


During the past decade, the convenience of online learning has afforded postsecondary students of all ages the opportunity to attend and complete online programs—especially to those students who have full and/or part-time employment, dependents, and those maintaining busy schedules. The benefits of taking online courses include flexibility, convenience, and cost-effective educational opportunities anywhere and anytime. Despite these well-known affordances, postsecondary institutions offering online courses are also fully aware of the challenges concomitant with this learning environment—most notably, student retention. Numerous studies have approached the retention, progression, and completion issue from a variety of angles attempting to predict, classify, identify, and increase opportunities for students to reach their personal academic goals. Rather than repositioning and assuming a new angle, the authors of this study chose to fuse these well established–yet isolated angles. Therefore, the purpose of this study was (1) to identify significant student demographic predictors among students who dis-enroll (“stoppers”), reenroll (“swirlers” and/or “shoppers”), and/or complete their online program of study (“succeeders”), and (2) to calculate the variance among the significant predictors.

Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration

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