The retention rate for online schools is low and there are many reasons why students discontinue their degree program, from the cost per credit hour to school policies and the quality of the courses offered. Instructors have little control over many of those factors but what they can help with is the classroom environment that they are responsible for maintaining. With every class students are at risk for failure because of the nature of a virtual environment and interactions with others. New students have the greatest risk and the most challenging learning curve. When students take their first class it is a time when their perceptions and expectations meet the reality of working in an online class. Every subsequent class requires adapting in some manner, to a new instructor and set of requirements. This creates a risk or possibility for students to fail.
All instructors, not just those who teach entry point classes, are responsible for nurturing the development of their students. This means that teaching is not just a function with a checklist of duties, it is a process that requires full engagement and support for the progress of every student. With online classes it is possible for students to gradually disengage, if they become frustrated or their motivation wanes. If an instructor doesn’t notice a student’s struggle or does but doesn’t conduct some form of outreach, that student may disengage completely within a short period of time. There are proactive strategies an instructor can implement as part of their instructional strategy, to maintain awareness of class conditions and lessen the likelihood of students failing to complete the course. <Read more.>