Is the Second Time the Charm? Investigating Trends in Online Re-enrollment, Retention and Success

January 26, 2012


Online education is becoming an increasingly important component of higher education. The Sloan Foundation 2010 Survey of Online Learning reports that more than 30% of all students take at least one online course during their college career. Because of this, attention is now turning to the quality of student outcomes that this instructional method provides. However, there is a huge gap in empirical investigations devoted to the link between technology and performance indicators such as grade performance, re-enrollment and course completion (Nora & Plazas Snyder, 2008). This study found that prior online course experience is strongly correlated with future online course success. In fact, knowing a student’s prior online course success explains 13.2% of the variation in retention and 24.8% of the variation in online success in our sample, a large effect size. Students who have not successfully completed any previous online courses have very low success and retention rates, and students who have successfully completed all prior online courses have fairly high success and retention rates. Therefore, this study suggests that additional support services need to be provided to previously unsuccessful online learners, while students who succeed online should be encouraged to enroll in additional online courses in order to increase retention and success rates in online learning.

Journal of Educators Online

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