Academic leaders are more worried about retention rates in online courses now than they have been in at least a decade, a new report said.

retention-online-courseForty-one percent of chief academic officers said they agreed that retaining students was a greater problem for online courses than for face-to-face classes.

Only 28 percent of respondents felt this way about retention in 2009, and only 27 percent concurred in 2004.

The concerns about student retention were highlighted in a recent survey conducted by Babson Survey Research Group, Pearson, and the Sloan Consortium. The survey featured nearly 3,000 institutions responding to questions about online learning.

“Comparing the retention in online courses to those in face-to-face courses is not simple or easy,” the report’s authors wrote. “Online courses can attract students who might otherwise have not been able to attend traditional on-campus instruction because of work, family, or other obligations.”

Low retention rates have been at the center of the debate surrounding massive open online courses (MOOCs).

The average completion rate for non-credit MOOCs is between seven and 10 percent. When San Jose State University and Udacity partnered to offer for-credit MOOCs last year, as much as 75 percent of students failed some of the courses.

More than 60 percent of the students were not enrolled in a degree program at the university. Out of the matriculated San Jose State students taking the remedial math MOOC, every one of them had previously failed a remedial math class.


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