Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Comparing Social Isolation Effects on Students Attrition in Online versus Face-to-Face Courses in Computer Literacy

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Comparing Social Isolation Effects on Students Attrition in Online versus Face-to-Face Courses in Computer Literacy

Article excerpt

Introduction

This study builds on a previous study regarding performance difference between online courses and face to face (F2F) courses. In our first study (Ali & Smith, 2014) we analyzed the difference in student grades between online courses versus F2F courses. Based on our analysis we determined that student performance in F2F courses is not necessarily superior to online courses. We did note that the rate of withdrawal in online courses is higher than F2F courses. Our inclination was that the withdrawal rate is mainly caused by the social isolation felt among online students. Although our inclination was supported by literature from different studies (Allen & Seman, 2013, Brown, 2012, Haley & Heise, 2008, Kirtman, 2009), we did not provide evidence in support of this position. Thus, we decided to research this topic further and to collect data in order to test a general hypothesis about the difference in the feeling of social isolation between students enrolled in online versus F2F courses.

Social isolation feeling has been examined in various studies and was determined to have effect on the performance of individuals at different levels (Ali & Kohun, 2007; House, 2001; Pappano, 2001). The feeling of social isolation often starts at the unconscious level and then manifests different ways (House, 2001). One of the ways that social isolation manifests on the individual is through attrition from courses or programs (Frankola, 2001). Although this can be argued at different levels, social isolation is determined to be a major factor that causes students to dropout in academic courses and programs.

The increased offering of online courses has boosted the level of discussion on the effect social isolation and whether the effect increases among students enrolled in online courses. This study contributes to the on-going discussion by comparing the effect of social isolation on students' attrition in online versus F2F courses. It compares withdrawal rate (W grade) from three sections of computer literacy course taught online and F2F by the same faculty member. It drives its conclusion after analyzing the difference of the data collected between these two setting of courses (F2F versus online).

The remainder of this study is divided into the following sections:

--First section defines the problem that this study addresses, establishes the hypothesis and explains the limitation of this study

--Second section provides literature review regarding social isolation and online education

--Third section explains the courses that this study uses and the procedures followed for data collection

--Fourth section analyzes the collected and gives insight into the results

--Fifth section provides conclusion and suggestions for future studies

The Problem

The problem that this paper is addressing is whether students enrolled in online courses experience social isolation feeling to a greater degree than their counterpart students in F2F courses. A hypothesis can be established to assess the correctness of this problem or not. Also, some limitations are cited regarding the methodology employed in this study.

Hypothesis

Based on the description above, the problem that this paper is addressing can be stated in terms of hypothetical settings, both in terms of null hypothesis (H0) and alternative hypothesis (H1). The following is a statement of both hypotheses:

H0: Online students experience social isolation feeling to a greater degree than F2F students in computer literacy courses

H1: Online students do not experience social isolation feelings to a greater degree than F2F students in computer literacy courses

Limitations of This Study

Three notable limitations are facing this study based on hypothesis, method of data collection, and analysis:

--The collected data is based on one semester of student grades. …

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