Student Retention in Online, Open, and Distance Learning

Student Retention in Online, Open, and Distance Learning

Student Retention in Online, Open, and Distance Learning

Student Retention in Online, Open, and Distance Learning


Open and distance learning (ODL) is now a well-established complement to traditional campus-based learning and numbers of participating students are on the rise. However, a growing concern for all those involved in recruiting and teaching in ODL is keeping these students. Retention rates for online courses are often worse than for conventional learning, and a recent study has suggested that over 70% of distance learning students drop out of courses.There is increasing recognition that student retention is the responsibility of the actual institutions running the courses rather than being out of their hands, as previously thought. Institutions need to retain greater numbers of students without compromising academic standards.Ormond Simpson provides a clear, accessible analysis of strategies for increasing retention and, crucially, provides case studies and examples to illustrate how these strategies can change institutional policy and practice.All the key issues are covered, including recruitment, retention, retrieval and reclamation.


Student dropout…is a multi-causal problem that requires multiple partial solutions.

(Woodley, 1987)

There are two questions that anyone approaching retention issues is bound to ask because the answers seem beguilingly obvious. If we knew who was most likely to drop out we could either ensure that they didn't start study until ready or they could be targeted for extra support. If we knew why students dropped out then we could amend those areas of the institution's policy and procedures that might affect that decision.

In practice neither question is susceptible to a simple answer or consequent change in institutional strategies.

Who drops out

There may be at least two ways of answering this question. One will be in quantitative terms-looking at measurable characteristics of withdrawing students such as previous qualifications, sex and so on. Another answer will be qualitative, looking at less measurable characteristics such as personality. But neither gives very decisive answers.

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