Koehnke, Paul

The Impact of an Online Orientation to Improve Community College Student Retention in Online Courses: An Action Research Study


In spite of the tremendous growth and an option which allows greater flexibility for students to pursue a higher education, certain barriers contribute to higher attrition rates and lower student performance in fully online courses.  Poor or inefficient technology skills, a lack of student readiness, and misaligned course expectations are barriers that affect student success in online courses.  It is critical that community college educators develop practices that seek to prepare students for the challenges of online learning with a goal of improving online student retention and performance.  Current research suggests that an online orientation may increase student success and course completion.  This quantitative study used collaborative action research to plan and implement an intervention targeting a group of online students in six online course sections who were asked to complete an online orientation to determine the orientation’s impact at the research site.  Student grades and retention metrics of the sample group who were asked to complete the online orientation were compared to the data from a control group who did not complete the orientation.  Detailed descriptive analysis was completed on the end of course grades which revealed that the in-class retention rate from the research group who completed the online orientation was higher in comparison to the retention rate from the control group who did not complete the online orientation.  Additionally, the analysis showed that the students in the research group achieved a higher overall grade point average (GPA) compared to the students in the control group.  A t test analysis showed that the mean GPA of the research group was statistically significant at the p<0.05 significance level and the mean retention rate of the research group was statistically significant at the p<0.10 significance level.