Distance learning opponents have long cited low completion rates. But the statistic may be extremely outdated
A very negative statistic about online learners has floated around in academia for many years, and is still quoted by opponents of distance learning. Most recently, a study on personality traits of successful online learners by Professor Shawna Strickland again reiterated that “It is estimated that 70% of distance learners do not complete their courses.”
A raft of other studies has quoted this 70% failure estimate, but is it accurate? A close look seems to show that it may be an outdated, meaningless number.
Apparently, it first turned up in 1997 in a dissertation by S. Parks, a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University. While it may have been accurate then, a great deal has changed.
- High speed internet has increased – as a result online access is drastically faster than it was 11 years ago and online classes are simply much easier to take from a home computer.
- WiFi hotspots have come into being, making it possible to do some extra work on a stopover at Starbucks and lots of other places.
- Online teaching technologies have drastically improved for live online lectures, communication between professors and students, message boards and other tools that improve the online learning experience.
Additionally, learning software that schools use to deliver distance learning has become drastically more sophisticated.