An examination of factors that impact the retention of online students at a for-profit university

Chris Sorensen, Judy Donovan


Online learning has continued to grow in recent years. However, retaining students in online courses and programs has posed a challenge. Whether the university is public, private, offers both face-to-face and online programs, or is 100% online, retaining students in online programs can be an issue. This study reflects the widespread desire at a large online for-profit university to improve student retention rates. The goal of the research was to provide further insight into why students may decide to drop out of online programs. Participants consisted of former undergraduate students at the university in the College of Education who dropped out without providing a specific reason for doing so. The study used a non-experimental mixed methods approach collecting data from university databases, an online survey, interviews, and classroom walk-throughs. Data analysis employed techniques such as frequency calculations, a MANOVA, and qualitative content analysis. Results from the MANOVA revealed statistically significant results when examining student GPA and last course grade. Furthermore, data collected from the online survey, interviews, and classroom walk-throughs revealed common reasons for why students may drop out of online programs.


Online learning, Higher Education, For-Profit Colleges and Universities, Student Retention, Adult Learners, Undergraduate

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