Staying the Course, Online Education in the United States, 2008
Toronto, Canada (Vocus) February 11, 2009
Ensuring that postsecondary students complete their programs and graduate is of increasing concern for students and institutions facing mounting financial pressures. Even with more students studying online, there is little data on the drivers of online student attrition. One educator is now initiating a broad study on how to maximize retention, or "persistence," in an online learning environment. Dr. Thomas Downey, Chief Academic Officer of Embanet, ULC , an integrated, full service provider of online learning services to schools, colleges and universities across the United States and Canada, has initiated the study to develop a model for online learning environments that increases the probability of student success. Downey will discuss the study and applications for online learning models at the Society for Applied Learning Technology Conference on February 18 in Orlando, Florida.
According to the latest survey of online learning from the Sloan Consortium ("Staying the Course, Online Education in the United States, 2008"), the number of students taking at least one online course between 2002 and 2007 grew at a compound annual growth rate of 19.7%. As of fall, 2007, the estimated number of online students was 3.94 million. Enhancing persistence among these students has broad implications not only for students, but also for institutions and the renewal of the economy. For institutions, student attrition can represent both revenue loss and reputational risk. For students who are taking on loans to get their first degree, or for the many adult learners who are now going back to school to enhance their credentials or change careers, dropping out for any reason is not a pretty scenario. Students who drop out are still on the hook for the debt they incur to fund their educations, but have no degree to enhance earning potential. All of this, of course, can negatively impact workforce development and an economy struggling to recover.
"The goal of our study is to identify the key drivers that effect retention of online students," said Downey. "This will position us to utilize best practices from traditional on-ground retention models to better design courses and build online communities. Leveraging Embanet's vast database of online learner information from a variety of institutions can lead to new and more accurate predictive multi-dimensional assessments that can better identify at-risk students before they drop-out."
Dr. Downey has over two decades of experience in adult technical training, education and instructional technology. He has led major online educational technology development projects at the University of Washington, Boeing Aerospace, Boeing Commercial Airplane, the Higher Colleges of Technology in the United Arab Emirates, and Thomson Learning. Dr. Downey was chosen for a "senior scientist" track at Boeing and served as Vice President of Technology at Thomson Learning. He holds a multi-disciplinary PhD from the University of Washington in Computer Science, Industrial Engineering, Human Factors and Psychology; an MBA in Accounting, Information Systems, and Security from the New York Institute of Technology, and a Master's Degree in Instructional Design and Interactive Technologies from the University of Washington.
About Embanet, ULC
Founded in 1995, Embanet (http://www.embanet.com) is an integrated, full service provider of online learning services for postsecondary educational institutions. Embanet preserves academic integrity and maximizes student enrollment and graduation by providing capital and expertise in program development, marketing and admissions, student services and technology support. Headquartered in Toronto and Chicago, the company serves over 50 colleges and universities offering more than 40 degree programs.
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