Key questions that research can address include: what factors influence student success in online or blended learning settings? How can online or hybrid courses and programs be evaluated for quality and effectiveness? How appropriate are online or virtual schools for K-12 students? How assessable are blended or online instruction and assessments for those students with special needs or abilities? What opportunities do digital, web-based media and materials provide for students that allow them to extend or expand what is normally available in a traditional time-limited class setting?
In this post and over the next few, I will attempt to address the first question regarding factors influencing student success. The number of factors is probably quite large, as it includes factors related to the student internally, external conditions where the online learning takes place, and the course itself. For a review of factors that contribute to student success in K-12 online and virtual education, Ronisisvalle & Watkins (2005) provide a critical perspective drawing on initial research in this domain. Over the next several posts, I will attempt to address some of the internal factors.
Barbour and Reeves (2009) noted that online courses are often designed with the ideal online learner in mind. This ideal student would be motivated and independent. Further, they would have access to the proper technology at the home, and would have parents who are supportive of their endeavor. Clearly, this is not the case for all online learners. Further, Kim, Park, and Cozart (2014) examined what online students thought made them successful in an online course. Using a validated survey instrument, the students reported that self-efficacy (i.e., people’s beliefs regarding the ability to complete tasks and achieve goals) was very important to online success. The authors of the study discussed how this can be negatively affected by the reason for enrolling in the online course in the first place. That is, a student taking an online course for credit recovery already has negative experiences associated with the content of the course. Any additional problems (e.g., technical) combined with any feelings of isolation associated with an online course could negate any feelings of self-efficacy within the student.
In the next post, I will continue discussing this idea of internal factors, as well as attempts to predict student success in online courses based on measurements of these traits.
Barbour, M.K., & Reeves, T.C. (2009). The reality of virtual schools: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 52(2), 402-416.
Kim, C., Park, S., & Cozart, J. (2014). Affective and motivational factors of learning in online mathematics courses. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(1), 171-185.
Ronsisvalle, T., & Watkins, R. (2005). Student success in online K-12 education. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 6(2), 117-124, 184.