Janet C. Moore, Marie J. Fetzner


Although online course completion rates are commonly believed to be lower than in other delivery modes, some programs achieve equal or better course completion rates. This issue presents studies that suggest certain practices contribute to student success. Readers are invited to contribute to work-inprogress on key factors for a framework of effective practice.


Course Completion,Retention,Student Success,Community of Inquiry,Pillars of Quality

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Allen, I.E. and J. Seaman. Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008. Sloan-C, November 2008, page 5.

Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010, Table 214

See retention efforts from the Gates Foundation; the Lumina Foundation; the Carnegie Foundation; and the Education Trust and the National Association of System Heads

Association of Public and Land Grant-Grant Universities. Sloan National Commission on Online Learning. Online Learning Benchmarking Study and Faculty Survey. August 31, 2009.

National Survey of Student Engagement. Promoting Engagement for All Students: The Imperative to Look Within, 2008 Results. Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. November 14, 2008.

Means, B., Y. Toyama, R. Murphy & K. Jones. Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service. July, 2009.

Hiltz, S. R., & M. Turoff. Network Nation: Human Communication via Computer. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (1978), rev. 1993.

College Navigator. ACE Analysis of Higher Education Act Reauthorization.

National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Services.

See for example not-for-profit rankings:

* American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) What Will They Learn? A Report on General Education Requirements at 100 of the Nation's Leading Colleges and Universities

* Association of American Colleges and Universities, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) VALUE-Plus: Rising to the Challenge

* College Portrait of Undergraduate Education

* American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Diplomas and Dropouts Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don't). By Frederick M. Hess, Mark Schneider, Kevin Carey, Andrew P. Kelly. June 2009.

* Transparency by Design

* University and College Accountability Network,

See for example news and commercial rankings:

* USNEWS Best Colleges 2010, and

USNews catalog of online programs at

* Washington Monthly

* Best Colleges Online

* Get Educated “Rate, Rank and Compare Online Schools and Degrees”:

* Online Education Database

* College Crunch

The College Navigator advises readers to “interpret data with caution.”

Moore, J., M. Fetzner & J. Sener. Getting Better: ALN and Student Success. JALN 10(3).

SENSE National Report, Imagine Success: Engaging Entering Students: “nationally, nearly 50% of entering students drop out before the second year.” March 18, 2009.

Sloan Consortium quality framework.

In March/April 2009, a Sloan-C Workshop on Retention Strategies in Online Education discussed the extent to which particular pillars were emphasized in retention initiatives. A listing of workshop participant retention practices was prepared by the workshop facilitators, Ruth Bennett and Marie Fetzner.

Webber, D. A., R. G. Ehrenberg. Do Expenditures Other Than Instructional Expenditures Affect Graduation and Persistence Rates in American Higher Education? Cornell Higher Education Research Institute. August 1, 2009. p. 19.

Tinto, V. Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition. Second edition, University of Chicago Press, March 1994.

Di Salvio, P. Cohort Student Grouping: Does It Enhance Student Retention?

Swan, K. Relationships Between Interactions and Learning In Online Environments.

Garrison, D. R., M. Cleveland-Innes & T.Fung. Student Role Adjustment in Online Communities of Inquiry: Model and Instrument Validation. JALN 8(2): 64, April 2004.

Top Ten Issues related to Scale. Sloan-C View, May 2003.

A special issue of JALN focuses on institutional business models, see JALN 10(2): May 2006.

Gary Miller quoted in “From ‘Cost Effectiveness and Institutional Commitment’ to ‘Scale’ The Sloan-C View, July 2008.

Moloney, J. and B. Oakley. Scaling Online Education: Increasing Access to Higher Education. JALN 10(3): July 2006.

Willging, P. A. & S. Johnson. Factors that Influence Students' Decision to Dropout of Online Courses. JALN 8(4): December 2004.

Tinto, V. Leaving College: Rethinking the Causes and Cures of Student Attrition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Bean, J. P. and B. S. Metzner. A conceptual model of nontraditional undergraduate student attrition. Review of Educational Research 55(4): 485–540, 1985.

Garrison, D. R., T. Anderson, and W. Archer. Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2–3): 87–105, 2000.

Meyer, K.A., J. Bruweilheider & R. Poulin. Why They Stayed: Near-Perfect Retention in an Online Certification Program in Library Media. JALN 10(4): December 2006.

The National Center for Academic Transformation. Fully online model:


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