Reducing the Online College Drop Out Rate – One Student at a Time
Generally speaking, the dangers of seeing a student become an online college drop out fall into any one of three categories:
- Lack of socialization
- Lack of familial support
- Lack of vision
As an online instructor, you have the power to overcome the lack of socialization, which seems to be unique to online learning, simply by fostering a means of peer interaction as well as teacher-guided dialog. In the brick and mortar school setting, a sense of belonging is fostered by the various meetings, exams, and face to face peer contact students experience. The online education setting lacks this.
Reduce the college drop out rate by putting in place a network of peer contacts, (i.e. study buddies, peer groups, and even peer teams). While the peer contacts satisfy the one on one contact need, the peer groups satisfy the need to be a part of something bigger. Lastly, the team concept allows for healthy competition between the groups when entering the online college environment. All of this fosters persistence and even commitment, when in the past it would have been easier for the individual student to just shrug off the added tasks.
It is interesting to note that the competition aspect can also counteract the lack of familial support. In some ways, the forums, discussion groups, instant messaging networks, and of course email interactions of the online learning teams and groups will make up for the failure of friends or family members to take a serious interest in the student’s academic progress. Success in beating the other groups will make up for the lack of familial kudos and encouragement.
Of course, no online student can succeed without a lack of vision. This is where peer interactions can help, but it takes the finesse and experience of a seasoned online instructor to help the individual student rekindle the commitment to their education. This is one on one communication that should not begin when a student is just beginning to drop off with respect to grades or assignments, but it is a consistent dialog that begins from day one and continues on throughout the duration of the class.
It is true that this adds a bigger burden onto the shoulders of an instructor, but at the same time it cuts down significantly on the last minute discussions that ensue when a online learning teacher attempts to reduce the online college drop out rate by preventing a student from becoming a statistic. In a sense, an ounce of prevention is indeed better than a pound of cure – or flurry of lengthy emails.