I hope this latest issue of the OJDLA finds all of you well and in the throes of holiday spirit. Last weekend, our distance learning staff here at the University of West Georgia spent the weekend at our semi-annual planning retreat (pictured below). One of the challenges we discussed is how to increase retention among students enrolled in our freshman and sophomore-level online courses. Since this past summer’s retreat, our creed has been to reach out and help each of these students as though it were our own child. When they call our office seeking advice about which courses to take, how to registered for proctored exams, or how to succeed in spite of personal or course-related challenges, we take the time to fully and completely address their concerns (sometimes up to 45 minutes for one phone call), take a genuine interest in them, and follow-up with them as needed.
We also inundate them with emails reminding them of important deadlines, and have student assistants who call each of them before the course begins to make sure that they understand the nature of online learning. Finally, we have recently hired a student tutor to assist online students with particularly challenging subjects, such as chemistry. Our goal over the next year is to cut drop-out rates by at least 25 percent.
Thus, I am pleased to present two articles directly related to this issue. First of all, Peter Williams and award-winning author Scott Howell (along with R. Dwight Laws and Emily Metheny) provide the results of their research regarding the utilization of their online tutoring program at Brigham Young University. Michael Herbert also brings us related research on student retention in online courses. These are critical areas of interest to distance learning administrators, and I hope that these articles will encourage even more research in these areas.
Also, in this issue, we have a wonderful mixture of other topics, including faculty development, disaster planning, and development of e-learning frameworks. As always, please contact me if you have any comments or suggestions for our journal. Warm wishes for a great new year!
Melanie N. Clay, Ph.D.
December 15, 2006
Last modified: December 15th, 2006