It’s Complicated: The Relationship Between Participation in Academic Coaching and Program Completion in Online Graduate Students


  • Tara Lehan Northcentral University
  • Bethanne Shriner
  • Michael Shriner



asynchronous academic coaching, learning assistance, online education, graduate students


Among graduate students at one completely online university, it previously was found that participation in synchronous one-on-one academic coaching even once increased the odds of persistence 6 to 9 months later 2.66 times. To examine the longer-term impact of this service, this study was designed to investigate the relationship with program completion by comparing the same random sample of students who participated in academic coaching to the same matched sample of students in the same course with the same faculty member at the same time. In the academic coaching sample, the more times these students worked with an academic coach, the greater their odds were of completing their program. However, when the students from the matched sample (all of whom had 0 academic coaching sessions by definition) were added to the analysis, this relationship was no longer statistically significant. It was determined that the previously observed relationship between participation in synchronous one-on-one academic coaching and persistence in online graduate students might not endure through program completion, although the relationship between several demographic and academic variables and program completion did remain statistically significant. In light of these findings, if the goal is to increase their odds of completion, it seems that students who are already engaging with an academic coach (due to either self-selection or faculty encouragement/requirement) might be encouraged to continue to do so. Moreover, a “booster” coaching session might be helpful. However, there is insufficient evidence to support the practice of requiring participation in academic coaching among students who do not do so on their own.


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2020 OLC Conference Special Issue