- In a study of video diaries submitted by 20 students participating in their first semester of online courses, researchers from Ireland, Australia, and England have identified soft factors that influence student motivation.
- According to eCampus News, the study found that false, preconceived notions about online courses led students to develop unrealistic expectations about study time that doomed their prospects.
- Researchers advise online course creators to encourage participation in support services with online students from the beginning, create opportunities for students to interact with their peers and develop a sense of belonging, offer additional training for students who many not be as comfortable with the course technology, and time interventions to address a second at-risk period just before the end of the semester.
The full report, "Stories from Students in their First Semester of Distance Learning," includes profiles of each of the 20 students involved. While the research deals with a small sample size, all participating in courses at a single institution, it does provide insights that other online program developers should consider. Previous research has identified the need for early interventions to retain students who are unlikely to persevere beyond the first few weeks of class. This study suggests students are also vulnerable before their last assignment of their first course is due and may begin to question their ability to complete their full programs.
Further research would need to confirm this at-risk period in other online courses, but it is certainly something retention-focused administrators should keep in mind.