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Completion Rates and Distance Learners

Completion Rates and Distance Learners
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Author(s): Nathan K. Lindsay (University of Michigan, USA), Scott L. Howell (Brigham Young University, USA) and R. Dwight Laws (Brigham Young University, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch054


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Critics of distance education frequently assert that completion rates are lower in distance education courses than in traditional courses. Such criticism comes despite sparse and inconclusive research on completion rates for distance and traditional education courses. This article reviews some of the existing research and then describes some of the caveats and complexities in comparing completion rates in traditional and distance education. Analysis reveals that numerous factors make comparison between these two formats difficult, if not impossible. Problems include limitations in the research design itself, differences in student demographics, and inconsistent methods of calculating and reporting completion. After exploring these issues, the article presents best practices for improving completion rates while emphasizing that distance education completion rates may be acceptable after considering distance learners’ characteristics.

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