Predictors of online success revealed in community colleges

For a majority of online learners, math and reading, jobs hours directly impact grades and retention

online-student-predictorA majority of research on the predictors of student success in online learning focus on traditional four-year institutions; a fact the community college community finds troubling, since most community college students [a growing number!] are also going online. But are there any differences in the predictors of success? Researchers say ‘yes,’ which could also impact traditional institutions’ online learners, too.

According to a recent study conducted by Brian Wolff, biology instructor at Normandale Community College, MN; A. Michelle Wood-Kustanowitz, Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management Program, University of Minnesota; and Jennifer Ashkenazi, librarian at the National Library of Israel; the current cuts in funding for community colleges are similar to those that traditional institutions are also facing. Because of these cuts, and the need for institutions to provide more with less, online learning options are becoming increasingly prevalent.

However, though many studies conducted at four-year institutions’ relatively new online learning options focus on what makes online learning students successful, the online learning students at these often prestigious institutions are not necessarily the most representative of the large number of students currently taking online courses today.

That’s why researchers say it’s critical to research predictors of success for online students at community colleges (who are often employed full-time, parents, and/or remedial learners), since these predictors could better help all institutions develop strategies for better retention, and better exam scores and overall GPA.

Backing the belief that online community college students are more numerous and, therefore, a better representation, according to the Journal of College Teaching & Learning, while overall student enrollment at community colleges remained flat in 2011, online enrollment at community colleges increased 8.2 percent—a percentage that continues to increase.

And according to the Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 31 percent of 18 to 24 year-old college students and more than half of all online students in the U.S. attend 2-year institutions.

(Next page: The predictors of online learning success)