Current Issue

The Impact of Face-to-Face Orientation on Online Retention: A Pilot Study

Radwan Ali
Radwan Ali
Elke M. Leeds
Elke M. Leeds

by Radwan Ali
     Elke M. Leeds

Student retention in online education is a concern for students, faculty and administration. Retention rates are 20% lower in online courses than in traditional face-to-face courses. As part of an integration and engagement strategy, a face-to-face orientation was added to an online undergraduate business information systems course to examine its impact on retention. The study methodology consisted of an early email contact, distribution of course documents, a follow-up phone call, and a pre-course face-to-face orientation. The retention rate of students who attended the orientation was over 91% with a p-value of 0.9143. The retention rate of students not attending the orientation was just under 18%. Findings suggest that face-to-face orientations impact retention positively.

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Desired Versus Actual Training for Online Instructors in Community Colleges

Batts, Pagliari and McFadden
Batts - Pagliari - McFadden

by Leslie Pagliari
     David Batts
     Cheryl McFadden

The growth of distance education and the demand for instructors has developed over the past ten to fifteen years. There is a perception that the type and amount of instructor preparation is highly variable between institutions. Of the faculty members at two year institutions surveyed, nearly half did not attend training over the previous year. With technology changing rapidly, there is a need for training annually to assure faculty members who teach online are prepared. Distance education administrators need to evaluate their distance education programs and develop a consistent and current infrastructure to assure that their faculty members are being properly trained to teach online.

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Six Questions for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Innovation in Distance Education
Connie Reimers-Hild
Connie Reimers-Hild
James W. King
James W. King

by Connie Reimers-Hild
     James W. King

Institutions offering distance education courses and programs may benefit by encouraging administrators, faculty, staff and students to be more entrepreneurial.  Organizational cultures designed to support this type of environment are characterized by entrepreneurial leadership, innovation and change.  This article provides information on how distance education institutions can incorporate entrepreneurial leadership and innovation into their organizations.  Six questions for administrators of distance education to consider are presented in an effort to provoke discussion and thought on the importance of incorporating entrepreneurial leadership and innovation throughout distance education organizations.

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Lessons Learned From Lessons Learned: The Fit Between Online Education “Best Practices” and Small School Reality
Lovvorn - Barth - Morris - Timmerman

by Al S. Lovvorn
     Michael M. Barth
     R. Franklin Morris, Jr.
     John E. Timmerman

Schools of all types and sizes are exploring the merits and facets of online learning approaches; but, the online delivery literature has focused on “best practices” generated primarily through the experiences of larger schools that are on the leading edge of this innovation. Small public schools, on the other hand, are faced with unique challenges in profiting from the advice of these first movers. Small schools are hampered as a result of severely constrained resources, among which are personnel, money, infrastructure, and time. These factors limit the ability of small public institutions to fully adopt widely approved online best practices. This article reviews contemporary research on the implementation of online learning, examines one small public school’s experience as a case study, discusses the disparities between the capabilities of large versus small public institutions of higher education, and outlines implications for other small schools that wish to pursue online education.

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Enhancing Social Presence in Online Learning: Mediation Strategies Applied to Social Networking Tools
Radwan Ali
Kristopher Joyce
Abbie Brown
Abbie Brown

by Kristopher M. Joyce
     Abbie Brown

An exploration of the mediation strategies applied to social networking tools for purposes of enhancing social presence for students participating in online course work. The article includes a review of the literature, specific examples from the authors’ professional practice and recommendations for creating a positive social experience for online learners.

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Leapfrogging Across Generations of Open and Distance Learning at Al-Quds Open University: A Case Study

Kathleen Matheos
Kathleen Matheos
Christina Rogoza
Christina Rogoza

by Kathleen Matheos
     Christina Rogoza
     Majid Hamayil

Al-Quds Open University (QOU) serves just over 40% of the undergraduate students within Palestine, who for multiple reasons are studying within the open system.  Established nearly 20 years ago, the institution is built on the Open University United Kingdom model of regional centers and print based correspondence.  In 2007, a Comprehensive Evaluation of QOU, funded by the World Bank and the European Union, resulted in recommendations that emphasized the development of teaching excellence in distance, open, and online environments (Matheos, MacDonald, McLean, Luterbach, Baidoun, & Nakashhian, 2007).  QOU administration responded with the development of a course redesign project, aimed at moving from a correspondence model to a blended learning environment that integrated technology into curricular design.  This paper shares the experiences of QOU, in its efforts to meet the conflicting demands of this situation as it leapfrogged into new forms of distance learning. This analysis of our experience may provide insight for administrators in other institutions that are at similar stages of distance delivery programming.

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From the Editor

Melanie ClayThis edition includes an article by Leeds and Radwan on one of my all-time favorite DL topics: student retention. The authors present compelling evidence that retention is significantly higher among online students who attend a face-to-face orientation session. We've done some work at this area at the University of West Georgia, and found big increases in retention after we required students to view a brief online orientation, followed by a quiz, before they were allowed to register for eCore (undergraduate online) courses. The orientation studied in this article was different than ours in that it was much more comprehensive, required a campus visit, and was optional.  Those students who opted not to attend didn't fare nearly as well as those who did. But this leaves us to wonder whether it was the orientation itself, or the nature of the students who chose not to attend (are they slackards?) that caused the difference. But with an overall increase in retention following the introduction of the orientation, it would seem that the actual orientation did have an effect. I am inspired by this important research, but feel that for many programs with geographically-dispersed students, a face-to-face orientation is not realistic. I would like to try out something similar for some of our programs, but would like to conduct it virtually (but still live). I wonder if the type of attendance (face-to-face vs. virtual) would make a difference in retention gains. Be sure to read this article. It is well written with a lot of specific tidbits about the process for getting these students to attend orientation that you'll find most helpful. Have a wonderful and happy holiday!

Peace to all,

Melanie N. Clay, Ph.D.
December 15, 2009

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Last modified: December 15th, 2009