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Attrition and completion in distance education : the student's perspective Brindley, Jane E. 1987

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ATTRITION AND COMPLETION IN DISTANCE EDUCATION: THE STUDENT'S PERSPECTIVE  by  JANE E. BRINDLEY B.A., U n i v e r s i t y o f A l b e r t a ,  1976  THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS  in  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department o f C o u n s e l l i n g P s y c h o l o g y )  We a c c e p t t h i s t h e s i s a s c o n f o r m i n g to the required standard  The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h J u l y , 1987  (c) J a n e E. B r i n d l e y ,  Columbia  1987  In  presenting  degree  this  at the  thesis  in  University of  partial  fulfilment  of  British Columbia, I agree  freely available for reference and study. I further copying  of  department  this or  publication of  thesis for by  his  or  her  representatives.  requirements that the  for  an advanced  Library shall make  it  agree that permission for extensive  scholarly purposes may be It  is  granted  by the  understood  that  head of copying  my or  this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written  permission.  Department The University of British Columbia 1956 Main Mall Vancouver, Canada V6T 1Y3  DE-6(3/81)  the  ii ABSTRACT T h i s was an e x p l o r a t o r y study which used (1954)  Critical  Incident  Technique  to  Flanagan's  examine s t u d e n t s '  e x p e r i e n c e s i n t a k i n g t h e i r f i r s t d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n course. Specifically,  the  study  asked  what i n c i d e n t s h i n d e r e d o r  f a c i l i t a t e d p e r s i s t e n c e , and i f r e p o r t s o f e x p e r i e n c e s  from  completers were d i f f e r e n t from those o f non-completers.  The  40 s u b j e c t s  from  f o r the  sample  selected  courses a t Athabasca  distance  education  were  drawn  at  random  U n i v e r s i t y , an open  institution  serving  admission  students  across  Canada. A l l s t u d e n t s were a b l e t o i d e n t i f y hindered  or  facilitated  their  progress.  i n c i d e n t s was r e p o r t e d p e r student. reported,  incidents A  which  mean o f 6.6  From t h e 2 65  incidents  13 B a s i c C a t e g o r i e s were formed, w i t h a r e l i a b i l -  i t y o f 94%.  Only one c a t e g o r y had l e s s than 20% o f s t u d e n t s  reporting i n i t .  The h i g h e s t p r o p o r t i o n o f students r e p o r t -  i n g i n one c a t e g o r y was 80%. Significant factors affecting a t t r i t i o n i n distance education  emerged from t h e study, as d i d f i n d i n g s about t h e  s i m i l a r i t i e s and d i f f e r e n c e s between t h e e x p e r i e n c e s o f completers  and  non-completers.  i n g s might c o n t r i b u t e t o attrition cussion.  the  Suggestions development  f o r how t h e f i n d of  a  model  of  and r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s a r e i n c l u d e d i n t h e d i s -  iii TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE ABSTRACT  i i  TABLE OF CONTENTS  i i i  LIST OF TABLES  vi  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS  v i i  CHAPTER I . INTRODUCTION  1  Background: D i s t a n c e E d u c a t i o n as t h e Answer f o r A d u l t Learners Statement o f Problem and Purpose o f Study D e f i n i t i o n o f Terms Research Questions and R a t i o n a l e Setting D e l i m i t a t i o n s o f Study Summary  1 4 5 6 7 8 9  CHAPTER I I . REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE  11  Introduction Problem w i t h D e f i n i n g A t t r i t i o n and R e t e n t i o n Student C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s R e l a t e d t o A t t r i t i o n  11 12 14  Demographic F a c t o r s Academic F a c t o r s Motivational Factors Personality Factors Summary: Student C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s  15 18 20 22 24  I n s t i t u t i o n a l C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s Related t o A t t r i t i o n . Size/Image/Status Housing Student-Faculty Interaction Student Support S e r v i c e s Other I n s t i t u t i o n a l F a c t o r s i n D i s t a n c e Education Peer Group I n f l u e n c e E x t e r n a l Environmental  Factors Related t o A t t r i t i o n  F i n a n c i a l Factors O u t s i d e Encouragement Change i n Circumstances  24 26 27 27 29 31 31  .... 32 33 34 35  iv PAGE CHAPTER I I . REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE  (continued)  Reasons f o r Drop-out P r o v i d e d by Students Academic R e a s o n s / D i s s a t i s f a c t i o n w i t h Institution F i n a n c i a l Reasons M o t i v a t i o n a l Reasons Change i n Circumstances  36 37 37 38 39  T h e o r e t i c a l Models o f A t t r i t i o n  40  Retention Strategies  47  Recruitment/Information Admissions P o l i c i e s O r i e n t a t i o n Programmes Assessment and C o u n s e l l i n g Student/Faculty Interactions Summary: R e t e n t i o n S t r a t e g i e s  47 48 48 48 49 49  Research Method  49  CHAPTER I I I . METHODOLOGY  52  Subject S e l e c t i o n D e s c r i p t i o n of Subjects I n i t i a l Contact Process The I n t e r v i e w Recording and S o r t i n g o f Data CHAPTER IV. RESULTS Description of Basic Categories (1) (2) (3)  52 53 56 56 59 61 62  Student I n t e r a c t i o n w i t h t h e I n s t i t u t i o n .. 62 P e r s o n a l i z e d I n s t r u c t i o n a l Support 63 D i s c o v e r y about t h e Course/Support Materials/Approach 63 (4) Pre-Course P r e p a r a t i o n / P r i o r Expectations 64 (5) Received Encouragement/Support from Source Outside o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y 65 (6) Deadlines and Schedules 65 (7) Personal R e a l i z a t i o n 66 (8) Thoughts about Longer Term Goals 66 (9) Marks Received 67 (10) Changes i n Time A v a i l a b l e / C i r c u m s t a n c e s ... 68 (11) Course Content 68 (12) Course Design 69  V  PAGE CHAPTER I V . RESULTS (13)  (continued)  Practical Application  of Learning  70  R e l i a b i l i t y of Basic Categories B a s i c C a t e g o r i e s P a r t i c i p a t i o n Rate  70 71  Comparison  72  CHAPTER V.  of Completers  and N o n - C o m p l e t e r s  DISCUSSION  Statement  76  of Results  76  Change i n Time A v a i l a b l e o r C i r c u m s t a n c e s Personal Realization P e r s o n a l i z e d I n s t r u c t i o n a l Support D i s c o v e r y About t h e Course Encouragement/Support from O u t s i d e t h e University Course Design Pre-Course P r e p a r a t i o n / P r i o r Expectations D e a d l i n e s and S c h e d u l e s Course Content Student I n t e r a c t i o n with the I n s t i t u t i o n Marks R e c e i v e d P r a c t i c a l Application of Learning T h o u g h t s a b o u t L o n g e r Term G o a l s I m p l i c a t i o n s f o r a C o n c e p t u a l Model Implications for Retention Strategies R e c r u i t m e n t and I n f o r m a t i o n O r i e n t a t i o n Programs/Assessment S e r v i c e s O t h e r C o u n s e l l i n g Programs S t a f f Development R o l e f o r C o u n s e l l o r s O t h e r Recommendations L i m i t a t i o n s and  Future Research  77 79 80 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 89 90 91 98 99 100 101 102 102 103  Summary  104  REFERENCES  106  APPENDICES  I l l  Appendix Appendix  I - Letter of I n i t i a l I I - C o n s e n t Form  Contact  I l l 112  vi L I S T OF  TABLES PAGE  Table  I  Comparison o f C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f Sample S u b j e c t s w i t h t h o s e o f T o t a l Student Population  Table  II  Basic Categories  Table  III  Comparison o f P a r t i c i p a t i o n Rates i n C a t e g o r i e s Between C o m p l e t e r s and Non-Completers  74  C o m p a r i s o n o f R a t i o s Between F a c i l i t a t i n g and H i n d e r i n g I n c i d e n t s i n C a t e g o r i e s f o r C o m p l e t e r s and Non-Completers  75  Table  IV  P a r t i c i p a t i o n Rate  55 ...  72  vii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I t takes a effort  deal  of  patience,  t o produce a work o f t h i s s i z e —  son can p r o v i d e . and  great  talent,  more than one p e r -  I thank Trudy H a r r i n g t o n  f o r her  skills  i n c r e d i b l e p a t i e n c e a t t h e computer t e r m i n a l , Doug Shale  f o r h i s i d e a s and c o n t r i b u t i o n s t o t h e r e f e r e n c e s , and Paul  and  Ross  f o r h i s f i n e e d i t i n g , c o n s t r u c t i v e c r i t i c i s m , and c a r -  i n g support,  and a l l o t h e r f a m i l y , f r i e n d s ,  who gave encouragement and a d v i c e .  and  colleagues  1 CHAPTER I  INTRODUCTION  Background: D i s t a n c e  Education  as  the  Answer  for  Adult  Learners During  the p a s t  three  decades  in  North  America,  demographic, s o c i a l , and t e c h n o l o g i c a l changes have a c t e d c a t a l y s t s i n sending tem.  a d u l t s back i n t o the  The move toward r e c u r r e n t and  p o s t - u n i v e r s i t y age adults  are  educational  participating  in  formal  the  zinski,  education,  G r e e n f e i g and Goldberg, 1984;  During the p a s t 10 t o 15 y e a r s , North American  col-  and  universities  Report  1983).  have begun t o r e c o g n i z e t h i s t r e n d  number o f ways (Cross, 1981).  adult  student  However, d e s p i t e t h e i r  mined e f f o r t s t o become more a c c e s s i b l e t o t h i s  to  are  still  is  in  a  deter-  population,  s t i l l major o b s t a c l e s f a c i n g the a d u l t r e t u r n i n g  a traditional institution.  cation  (BrodTask  and have attempted t o accommodate the  there  continue,  of  Force on Mature Students,  leges  and demo-  numbers o f younger students w i l l d i m i n i s h  1980;  the  Every y e a r more  graphic projections indicate that t h i s trend w i l l while  sys-  f u r t h e r e d u c a t i o n by  individual i s striking.  as  still  too  too c o s t l y , and  Many a d u l t s b e l i e v e t h a t edu-  r i g i d i n i t s formal requirements, i s t y p i c a l l y u n a v a i l a b l e a t the  is  times  2 and  p l a c e s most needed  T a a f f e and Rocco, 1981; dents,  (Heffernan, Macy, and V i c k e r s ,  1976;  Report of Task Force on Mature  Stu-  1983) . In the f a c e o f these b a r r i e r s t o f u r t h e r  a d u l t s have demanded new  modes of l e a r n i n g .  Distance  t i o n , because o f i t s f l e x i b l e nature, has been some  as  education, educa-  heralded  by  the key t o p r o v i d i n g l e a r n i n g s i t u a t i o n s which  can  be adapted t o the i n d i v i d u a l requirements o f a d u l t s  leading  complex  o f many  roles.  lives  i n which b e i n g a student  i s o n l y one  Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y i n A l b e r t a , T e l e - u n i v e r s i t e  Quebec,  and the Open L e a r n i n g I n s t i t u t e i n B r i t i s h  Columbia  a r e t h r e e Canadian i n s t i t u t i o n s which are attempting vide  university  level  methods f o r a d u l t s who a  traditional  t h e i r students an  e i t h e r cannot or choose not t o university.  geography  (Smyrnew,  1986).  And  enrolment  statistics  i n d i c a t e that distance education growing  1983;  which tance  Tele-universite,  from these  institutions  1985;  institutions may  be  T e l e - u n i v e r s i t e , 1986).  i s true that distance education  many o f the  flexi-  the  a l t e r n a t i v e i n the post-secondary scene i n  Canada (AU Trends, #1, it  education  o p t i o n f o r reasons o f economics, time  and  attend  S e l f - r e p o r t s from  indicate that adults find distance  bility,  fastest  t o pro-  e d u c a t i o n through d i s t a n c e l e a r n i n g  campus-based  attractive  in  traditional  barriers  While  i n s t i t u t i o n s have removed to  adult  participation  are c i t e d i n the l i t e r a t u r e , and the m a j o r i t y o f d i s l e a r n e r s a r e a d u l t s (Coldeway, 1982b, 1986;  Holmberg,  3 1982), t h e r e s u l t s a c h i e v e d by t h i s mode o f study are not as s u c c e s s f u l as o r i g i n a l l y hoped. sities  throughout  the  Distance education  world appear t o have h i g h a t t r i t i o n  r a t e s r e l a t i v e t o those o f t r a d i t i o n a l and  Broderson,  1982) .  1980;  Shale, 1982;  universities  van Wijk, 1983;  The drop-out i s s u e i s a major concern  educators.  Indeed,  univer-  (Losty  Holmberg,  for  distance  i t has been s a i d t h a t the r a t e o f drop-  out c o n s t i t u t e s the most s i g n i f i c a n t c r i t e r i o n f o r d e c i s i o n s about  improvements o r changes t o systems o f d i s t a n c e educa-  tion  (Rekkedal, 1981).  the  I n t e r n a t i o n a l Council of Distance Education  1982, and  A t t h e most  and Melbourne, 1985), much  recent  a number of  conferences  the  of  (Vancouver,  papers  given,  o f the d i s c u s s i o n among d e l e g a t e s f o c u s s e d on the  d e s c r i p t i o n of the a t t r i t i o n problem and treatments f o r i t . At  i n s t i t u t i o n s such as Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y ,  flexibility  and  an open approach t o e d u c a t i o n i s r e f l e c t e d  not o n l y i n the use o f d i s t a n c e d i s t a n c e  teaching  methods,  but a l s o i n an open admissions p o l i c y , the problem o f t i o n i s o f even g r e a t e r concern than institutions maintained.  where  where  traditional  at  distance  entrance  attri-  teaching  requirements are  The i d e a l s o f an i n s t i t u t i o n such as  Athabasca  U n i v e r s i t y must be b a l a n c e d a g a i n s t the a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e i t provides f o r students. Athabasca Trends,  #2,  is  Currently,  approximately  1985,  p. 6).  56%  the across  attrition  rate  a l l courses  I t has been s a i d t h a t t h e r e  r i s k o f the open door becoming a r e v o l v i n g door  (Paul,  at (AU  is  a  1986,  4  p. 138)  where s t u d e n t s are encouraged  and then f i n d themselves  unable t o complete  d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n i s t o become a societies  to enrol i n a  major  it.  course,  Clearly, i f  shaping  force  in  a l l over the world, as suggested i n the p r e f a c e t o  L e a r n i n g a t a D i s t a n c e ( D a n i e l , Stroud, and Thompson, 1982), the  issue  of  attrition  will  have t o be examined i n much  g r e a t e r d e t a i l so t h a t the e x p e r i e n c e more  fully  understood,  students  can  be  and treatments can be a p p l i e d which  w i l l encourage s t u d e n t s t o p e r s i s t . out,  of  As F i n k e l  (1982) p o i n t s  a d u l t s t u d e n t s s h o u l d not have t o b a l a n c e t h e c o n v e n i -  ence o f l e a r n i n g i n t h e i r own failure  if  home a g a i n s t the l i k e l i h o o d  of  they choose d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n as t h e i r mode of  study. Statement o f Problem and Purpose o f the  Study  I t i s a dilemma, from an i n s t i t u t i o n a l that  so many d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n s t u d e n t s choose not t o con-  t i n u e toward Particularly  a g o a l which they have chosen for  from  themselves. University  removal  of  bar-  the path o f the a d u l t l e a r n e r , i t i s i m p e r a t i v e  t o f i n d out more about the  experiences  of  l e a d them t o withdraw or p e r s i s t w i t h t h e i r The purpose students'  for  i n s t i t u t i o n s such as Athabasca  where t h e r e i s a s t r o n g commitment t o the riers  perspective,  students study.  o f t h i s e x p l o r a t o r y study i s t o  experiences  which  examine  i n t h e i r homestudy c o u r s e s , s p e c i f i -  c a l l y , t o f i n d out i f they can i d e n t i f y s i g n i f i c a n t  concrete  5 incidents  which e i t h e r f a c i l i t a t e  o r h i n d e r t h e i r study, t o  see what k i n d s o f common e x p e r i e n c e s hence  students  t o t r a c k the s t u d e n t s ' performance  report,  and  to find i f experi-  ences r e p o r t e d by completers are d i f f e r e n t o r s i m i l a r i n any way  to  those  o f non-completers.  w i l l be used t o i d e n t i f y contribute  to  The r e s u l t s o f the study  significant  factors  which  a t h e o r e t i c a l model o f a t t r i t i o n  might  and t o p r o -  pose r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s f o r the a d u l t d i s t a n c e l e a r n e r . The gathered  i n f o r m a t i o n about s t u d e n t s ' e x p e r i e n c e s w i l l  u s i n g the C r i t i c a l  John Flanagan citing aim,  (1954).  concrete  I n c i d e n t Technique  I t i s an i n t e r v i e w method  incidents  which f a c i l i t a t e  developed for  be by  soli-  o r h i n d e r some  i n t h i s case, course completion.  D e f i n i t i o n o f Terms D e f i n i t i o n s are p r o v i d e d  for  the  which are used i n p a r t i c u l a r ways i n t h i s (1)  Completion/Persistence and  receiving  completing  following  terms  study: all  requirements  a f i n a l grade i n a c o u r s e - r e f e r s t o the  b e h a v i o u r o f a student  in  a  single  course,  ie.:  a  enrolling  in  a  persister/completer. (2)  Attrition/Drop-Out/Non-Completion  -  course but not completing the e n t i r e course - r e f e r s t o t h e behaviour of a student i n a s i n g l e course, non-completer.  It  includes  a  ie.:  a  v a r i e t y o f behaviours  6  such as v o l u n t a r i l y withdrawal,  not s t a r t i n g , o r  stop-  p i n g p a r t way through t h e course. (3)  E x p e r i e n c e / I n c i d e n t - a thought, observation,  or  f e e l i n g , an a c t i o n , an  an event which i s i d e n t i f i a b l e by t h e  i n d i v i d u a l s u b j e c t as having o c c u r r e d . (4)  F a c i l i t a t e s - makes a d i f f e r e n c e t o t h e planned  outcome  o r chosen g o a l i n a p o s i t i v e way. (5)  H i n d e r s - makes a d i f f e r e n c e t o t h e planned outcome  or  chosen g o a l i n a n e g a t i v e way. Research  Questions and R a t i o n a l e Each year, as i n c r e a s i n g numbers o f  choose  distance  education  adult  students  f o r t h e i r learning resource, i t  becomes more important t h a t i n s t i t u t i o n s o f f e r them t h e b e s t opportunity  for  success.  The u l t i m a t e r a t i o n a l e f o r t h i s  study i s t o see how t h e data c o l l e c t e d might i n f o r m p l a n n i n g for  s t u d e n t support s e r v i c e s i n a d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n  tution.  I f there  are  "avoidable"  drop-outs,  then  instiself-  r e p o r t s o f s t u d e n t s s h o u l d be v a l u a b l e i n f o r m a t i o n which can be  applied  completion.  to  institutional  strategies  to  reduce  non-  7 T h i s study addresses t h r e e q u e s t i o n s i n t h i s r e g a r d : (1)  What e x p e r i e n c e s do s t u d e n t s i d e n t i f y as b e i n g cant  signifi-  i n h i n d e r i n g or f a c i l i t a t i n g completion o f a d i s -  tance e d u c a t i o n course? (2)  Are t h e e x p e r i e n c e s of  completers  and  non-completers  d i f f e r e n t or s i m i l a r i n any way? (3)  How  can  learners  the  self-reported  contribute  to  experiences  of  distance  the development o f a model o f  a t t r i t i o n and r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s f o r d i s t a n c e  educa-  t i o n students? Setting The study examines the a t t r i t i o n phenomenon a t Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y , a d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n i n s t i t u t i o n s e r v i n g a p o p u l a t i o n o f approximately (primarily  in  Alberta  8,000  and  University specializes in  students  British  distance  across  Columbia). education  Canada  Athabasca  involving  v a r i e t y o f media, p r i m a r i l y p r i n t and telephone, but  a  includ-  i n g audio and v i d e o tapes, t e l e v i s i o n , and t e l e c o n f e r e n c i n g . The  institution  currently  o f f e r s b a c c a l a u r e a t e degrees i n  a r t s and s c i e n c e , and a d m i n i s t r a t i v e s t u d i e s , as w e l l number  of  transfer  working a d u l t s , and  programs. the  Students are  majority  are  as  a  predominantly  female.  The  i s t h a t a student be 18 y e a r s of  only  admission  requirement  age  or o l d e r .  Students can e n r o l i n most courses a t any time of  8 the  year,  timelines,  and  proceed  a t t h e i r own  pace w i t h i n s p e c i f i e d  ( s i x months f o r a h a l f - y e a r  or  semester  course  and twelve months f o r a f u l l - y e a r c o u r s e ) . A student who of  instructional  e n r o l s i n a course r e c e i v e s a materials  g u i d e s , student manual, and course  and  discipline.  telephone t u t o r who course,  and  1985,  other  subject  matter  of  on  the  expert  for  that  c o n s u l t by telephone on a  is  approximately  56%  This rate i s consistent  institutions  depending  study  The o v e r a l l a t t r i t i o n r a t e f o r Athabasca  courses  p. 6 ) .  aids  textbooks,  The student i s a l s o a s s i g n e d t o a  whom the student may  v a r i e t y of i s s u e s . University  is a  including  package  its  type  with  (AU Trends, that  of  worldwide (Woodley and  #2,  other  Parlett,  1983) . Delimitations of  Study  Although t h e 40 s u b j e c t s i n t h e study were chosen a t random  from  selected  courses,  they  turned  out  r e p r e s e n t a t i v e o f the t o t a l Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y i n a number o f important ways.  to  that population.  (See d e s c r i p t i o n o f s u b j e c t s  ments.  general-  Some c a u t i o n s h o u l d be used i n  g e n e r a l i z i n g the r e s u l t s a c r o s s where  be  population  i n Chapter I I I . ) The r e s u l t s , t h e r e f o r e , should be izable  to  institutions,  particularly  t h e r e are major d i f f e r e n c e s such as entrance r e q u i r e As w e l l i t s h o u l d be noted t h a t each y e a r 60-70%  Athabasca  University  student  body  are new  enrolments  of (AU  9 Trends  #3, 1986, p. 4 ) . Most AU s t u d e n t s take o n l y  one  or  two c o u r s e s (AU Trends, #3, 1986, p. 5 ) . These s t u d e n t s a r e not  seeking  interested  a  degree  only  with  Athabasca,  i n taking  but  individual  rather  courses.  are Their  b e h a v i o u r and m o t i v a t i o n s may be d i f f e r e n t from s t u d e n t s who are  committed  t o a program o f s t u d i e s l e a d i n g t o a degree.  More comparison are  reached  s t u d i e s a r e needed  i n this  regard.  before  any  conclusions  T h i s r e s e a r c h i n c l u d e d both  program and non-program s t u d e n t s . Summary A t t r i t i o n has been i d e n t i f i e d as a problem by educational  institutions  f o r some  time.  The most o f t e n  q u e s t i o n i s 'why do s t u d e n t s drop out?'. an  over-simplification  person,  when  behaviour  asked  in  a  give  'reasons'  situation,  can  complex  interplay  of  be Any  f o r h i s or her usually  r a t i o n a l l y based e x p l a n a t i o n t h a t does not the  well  of a very complicated process.  to  given  T h i s may  asked  produce a  necessarily  tap  thoughts, f e e l i n g s , and a c t i o n s  which o c c u r r e d p r i o r t o t h e i n c i d e n t and which were  crucial  t o t h e type o f behaviour e x h i b i t e d i n t h e s i t u a t i o n . The study undertaken does reasons  why  students  drop out.  s t u d e n t s a r e t o be s u c c e s s f u l goal  which  they  have  at  not  attempt  to  address  I t does r e c o g n i z e t h a t i f pursuing  an  educational  chosen f o r themselves, they need t o  know t h e t h i n g s they do which a r e e f f e c t i v e and i n e f f e c t i v e ,  10 what  t h i n g s w i l l h e l p them or h i n d e r them i n a t t a i n i n g t h a t  goal.  From an i n s t i t u t i o n a l  attrition  p o i n t of  view,  programs  aimed  this  pp.  ling  i t i s necessary t o f i n d  treatments,  88-89).  of  unsuccessful  s t u d e n t ' s p o i n t of view.  (in  to  (Pantages  In o r d e r t o propose c o u n s e l -  h i n d e r s o r f a c i l i t a t e s course completion and  knowledge  at lowering a t t r i t i o n "  and Creedon, 1978,  cessful  goal  r e s e a r c h i s f i r s t t o o b t a i n as complete an under-  s t a n d i n g as p o s s i b l e , and then t o apply designing  "the  out what a c t u a l l y  from both t h e  terms o f course  suc-  completion)  11 CHAPTER I I  REVIEW OF THE  LITERATURE  Introduction There i s a g r e a t body o f l i t e r a t u r e r e g a r d i n g a t t r i tion.  Four  of  have been c a r r i e d (1978), Metzner  the  out by T i n t o  Lenning, (1985).  full-time  most r e c e n t and comprehensive  Beal,  and  (1975), Pantages and Sauer  at  residential  review by Bean and Metzner l o o k s commuter  students.  theoretical summaries  (1980),  The f i r s t t h r e e reviews  students  All  reviews  and  focus  campuses.  at  older,  Creedon Bean and  on  younger  The  latter  part-time  and  a r e extremely u s e f u l i n p r o v i d i n g  frameworks, c r i t i c i s m o f r e s e a r c h methodologies, o f the major f i n d i n g s and c o n c l u s i o n s about them,  as w e l l as s u g g e s t i o n s f o r improving r e t e n t i o n . Research and w r i t i n g about a t t r i t i o n o f a d u l t  part-  time s t u d e n t s , p a r t i c u l a r l y those s t u d y i n g a t a d i s t a n c e , i s a r e l a t i v e l y r e c e n t phenomenon. is  that  o f the reasons f o r t h i s  h i g h a t t r i t i o n has been both expected and accepted  as a c h a r a c t e r i s t i c quis  One  (1979)  o f d i s t a n c e study.  As D a n i e l  and  Mar-  noted, "... when correspondence s c h o o l s began,  the  idea of s u r v i v a l  it  is  today..."  o f the f i t t e s t  was more a c c e p t a b l e than  However, more t r a d i t i o n a l p u b l i c l y  educational i n s t i t u t i o n s ,  such  as  universities,  funded  have  now  12 e n t e r e d the f i e l d o f d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n . have a  vested  interest  in  student  These i n s t i t u t i o n s  retention,  and  directed  r e s o u r c e s toward s t u d y i n g and s o l v i n g the  problem.  R e t e n t i o n o f students has become one o f the  ing  issues  for  distance  education  have  drop-out lead-  practitioners,  number o f s t u d i e s have been c a r r i e d out over  the  and a  past  few  years. Problems w i t h D e f i n i n g A t t r i t i o n and R e t e n t i o n The main body of r e s e a r c h and drop-out  literature  r e f e r s t o dropping out of a program o f s t u d i e s (eg.  one y e a r c e r t i f i c a t e , two y e a r diploma, Definitions  of  retention  most  four  often  year  refer to  t h e s e programs i n the p r e s c r i b e d amount o f time al.,  1980).  term  i s not s t u d y i n g f u l l - t i m e i n a  completing  (Lenning  completes  the  A  prescribed  behaviour  time.  program.  a program i n l o n g e r  thought,  (Lenning e t a l . ,  than  pre-  1980).  i t i s necessary t o develop new  t i o n and a t t r i t i o n .  of  and can sometimes i n c r e a s e the chances of  With the i n c r e a s i n g numbers of p a r t - t i m e a d u l t  to  A  few s t u d i e s have shown t h a t t h i s  i s more common among f u l l - t i m e s t u d e n t s than  eventual graduation  dents,  et  'stopping out' i s used t o d e s c r i b e the behaviour  a temporary drop out who  viously  degree).  This d e f i n i t i o n i s obviously inappropriate for  any student who new  regarding  d e f i n i t i o n s of reten-  Bean and Metzner (1985),  p r o v i d e a d e f i n i t i o n f o r "drop-out"  stu-  i n an  attempt  appropriate to adult  13 s t u d e n t s , d e s c r i b e d i t as someone "who tution  one  semester  e n r o l l s a t an  but does not e n r o l l the next  instisemester  and has not completed  h i s or her f o r m a l l y  of  They acknowledged t h a t s t o p - o u t s would  study."  (p. 489).  declared  not be d i f f e r e n t i a t e d from drop-outs u s i n g t h i s Lenning e t a l . , r e t e n t i o n was This  (1980) proposed  program  definition.  t h a t a g e n e r i c d e f i n i t i o n of  "success i n a c h i e v i n g some g o a l o r o b j e c t i v e " .  d e f i n i t i o n , w h i l e i t more c l e a r l y e x p l a i n s what  t i o n i s , i s not v e r y u s e f u l f o r ously,  goals  and  objectives  i n s t i t u t i o n , and  by  developed  own  their  research of  purposes.  students  individual.  Some  attriObvi-  will differ  institutions  d e f i n i t i o n of a t t r i t i o n and  by  have  retention  based on i n s t i t u t i o n a l and student c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s . A study by Shale University  (AU)  was  to  describe  attrition  course  course that  but  the  did  behaviour  not  of  comple-  successfully  enroled i n  complete  (p. 114).  an  the e n t i r e  He  observed  dropping out o f programs were l a r g e l y  i n a p p r o p r i a t e f o r Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y s t u d e n t s p l e t i o n o f a f u l l degree program was dents as t h e i r g o a l upon e n t r y . attrition  'drop-  o f a student i n a s i n g l e  (or p o r t i o n c o n t r a c t e d f o r ) " , definitions  Athabasca  Shale used a t t r i t i o n and  course and d e f i n e d drop-out as a student "who AU  at  successful i n clearly defining  out' a t t h a t i n s t i t u t i o n . tion  (1982) o f  since  seldom c i t e d by AU  In a more r e c e n t  a t Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y  (AU Trends,  #2,  author c a u t i o n e d a g a i n s t presupposing " t h a t a l l AU  comstu-  study  of  1985)  the  students  14 enrol 1).  i n AU c o u r s e s w i t h t h e aim o f g a i n i n g c r e d i t s " . He went on t o suggest t h a t even though  students  (p. might  show up on t h e u n i v e r s i t y r e c o r d s as having withdrawn from a course,  they might have v e r y w e l l met t h e i r own g o a l s . Clearly,  drop-out  f o r research  research best  caution  must studies.  be  exercised  I f t h e purpose  i s t o improve r e t e n t i o n , i n s t i t u t i o n s  to  define  own student motives  populations,  of the  a r e perhaps  a t t r i t i o n and r e t e n t i o n a c c o r d i n g taking into consideration  to their students'  f o r study and t h e i r u s u a l p a t t e r n s o f b e h a v i o u r i n  moving through c o u r s e s and/or programs. it  i n defining  A t t h e same  time,  s h o u l d be noted t h a t u s e f u l n e s s t o o t h e r r e s e a r c h e r s and  e d u c a t o r s i s an definition.  important  consideration  a  Pantages and Creedon (1978) p o i n t e d o u t some o f  the d i f f i c u l t i e s i n d e f i n i n g a t t r i t i o n stated  i n developing  that  "combining  and  retention,  t h e f i n d i n g s from s e p a r a t e  and  studies  depends, i n p a r t , on how a t t r i t i o n was o p e r a t i o n a l l y d e f i n e d i n those s t u d i e s " .  (p. 51).  Student C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s R e l a t e d t o A t t r i t i o n Demographic c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , s c h o l a s t i c s r e c o r d s and aptitudes, cial  p e r s o n a l i t y and m o t i v a t i o n a l  s i t u a t i o n s o f students  predictor  have a l l been examined  v a r i a b l e s f o r student  success.  t i o n s h i p s have been found, b u t must be Conflicting  f a c t o r s , and f i n a n -  r e p o r t s a r e common.  to  Some d i r e c t  used  with  F o r example, w h i l e  find rela-  caution. several  15 s t u d i e s reviewed by Pantages and Creedon (1978) showed older  that  freshman were l e s s l i k e l y t h a t t h e i r younger c o u n t e r -  p a r t s t o complete a f u l l - t i m e f o u r y e a r degree program, s t u dies  of  single  course completions a t Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y  (AU Trends, #2, 1985) showed a s t r o n g t r e n d i n t h e direction.  This kind of d i f f e r e n c e i n r e s u l t s of studies of  s t u d e n t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s as p r e d i c t o r v a r i a b l e s points  f o r success  out the f a l l a b i l i t y o f s i n g l e v a r i a b l e c o r r e l a t e s of  drop-out, and t h e importance o f t a k i n g c o n t e x t u a l into  variables  consideration. Another c a u t i o n i n l o o k i n g a t s t u d i e s o f  tionship  between  student  characteristics  w i t h no  comparison  of  the  rela-  c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s and a t t r i t i o n i s  t h a t many o f t h e s t u d i e s have focused of  opposite  only  on  descriptions  one group, drop-outs o r p e r s i s t e r s ,  group  (Pantages  and  Creedon,  1978).  Recent f i n d i n g s show t h a t t h e r e may be c o n s i d e r a b l e s i m i l a r i t y between t h e two groups. Regents  External  Degree  A study  students  i n the  to  active  and  o f gender,  greatly.  Factors  Both t h e Lenning e t a l . Creedon  students  found t h a t w i t h t h e e x c e p t i o n  the groups d i d n o t v a r y Demographic  attrition  Program ( T a y l o r , 1983) which com-  pared c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f i n a c t i v e graduate  of  (1980),  and  Pantages  and  (1978) reviews concluded t h a t t h e r e was enough con-  f l i c t i n g d a t a t o say t h a t g e n e r a l l y speaking, age was n o t  a  16 primary  factor  i n attrition.  The same reviews t u r n e d up  s i m i l a r f i n d i n g s f o r sex. Again, t h e r e may between  differences  t h e sexes depending upon c o n t e x t , and t h e r e i s some  evidence t h a t t h e reasons men and women out  be  may  give  f o r dropping  be d i f f e r e n t , b u t sex i s not c o n s i d e r e d a s i g n i f i -  cant v a r i a b l e except as o t h e r f a c t o r s a r e taken  into  con-  sideration. The same r e s u l t s do n o t appear t o be t r u e tance  education  students.  Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y definite rates.  I n r e c e n t s t u d i e s completed a t  (AU Trends,  correlation  for dis-  between  #2, age  1985),  of  there  was  a  s t u d e n t and s u c c e s s  J u s t over o n e - t h i r d o f s t u d e n t s under t h e age o f 25  successfully  completed  t h e i r courses w h i l e over o n e - h a l f o f  t h o s e 35 and over s u c c e s s f u l l y completed  theirs.  also  About 50% o f women  found  completed, (1983)  t o be a p r e d i c t o r v a r i a b l e . compared w i t h 38% o f men.  produced  similar findings.  Woodley  Sex was  and  Men dropped  out o f Open  U n i v e r s i t y c o u r s e s more f r e q u e n t l y than women, and over  t h e age  students. in  of  Bartels  Germany  Parlett  students  30 had b e t t e r success r a t e s than younger (1982) a l s o found a t t h e  FernUniversitat  t h a t drop-out was h i g h e s t among d i s t a n c e educa-  t i o n s t u d e n t s under t h e age o f 25.  On t h e o t h e r  hand,  he  r e p o r t e d t h a t women s t u d e n t s d i s c o n t i n u e d t h e i r s t u d i e s more f r e q u e n t l y than men i n t h a t Socioeconomic tages  and  Creedon  institution.  s t a t u s was r e c o g n i z e d by both t h e Pan-  (1978) and Lenning e t a l . (1980) reviews  17 as a f a c t o r commonly b e l i e v e d t o have a r e l a t i o n tion.  to  attri-  They a l s o agreed t h a t r e s e a r c h r e s u l t s were not  clusive. many  Socioeconomic s t a t u s i s based on and  other  able.  factors,  Tinto  i t is difficult  literature,  con-  but  that  socioeconomic  had many a s s o c i a t e d f a c t o r s which might p a r t i a l l y  wholly  account f o r t h i s .  (cited  i n T i n t o , 1975)  For example, Hackman and had  expectations  shown t h a t the f a m i l y ' s e x p e c t a -  i n influencing persistence.  n i n g e t a l . (1980) s t a t e d t h a t "the b e s t c o n c l u s i o n that  students  of  familial  a s p i r a t i o n , educational  s o n a l e d u c a t i o n a l a s p i r a t i o n s , and lege",  (p.  be  be  level per-  involvement w i t h the  col-  education  students  Parlett  by  those  i n manual occupations,  the unemployed, and those i n i n s t i t u t i o n s hospitals.  among  the r e t i r e d , such  as  factors  Woodley and  associated  with  the  Parlett  new and  prisons  T h i s p a t t e r n , although l e s s marked, was  same f o r c o n t i n u i n g s t u d e n t s . about  at  (1983) found  t h a t t h e r e were p a r t i c u l a r l y h i g h drop-out r a t e s  speculate  may  l e v e l of parents,  Open U n i v e r s i t y i n B r i t a i n , Woodley and  and  Len-  116).  In a study o f d i s t a n c e  students  as  d i s t i n c t l y disadvantaged s t a t u s are more  prone t o a t t r i t i o n but the o p e r a t i n g v a r i a b l e s may of  or  Dysinger  t i o n s f o r achievement emerged as b e i n g j u s t as important the s t u d e n t ' s  so  an i n v e r s e r e l a t i o n s h i p between f a m i l y  socioeconomic s t a t u s and drop-out, status  related to  t o i s o l a t e as a v a r i -  (1975), i n h i s review of the  c l u d e d t h a t t h e r e was  con-  the  did  not  occupation,  but  18 r a t h e r took the f i n d i n g s a t f a c e v a l u e a l o n g w i t h of  o t h e r c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , and  'high r i s k ' s t u d e n t s  from  of the d i f f e r e n c e s i n c o n c l u s i o n s  t i o n s , about who  number  concluded t h a t i t i s p o s s i b l e  to i d e n t i f y some  a  upon  i s 'at r i s k ' , t h a t  entry.  the  It  appears  among i n s t i t u -  identification  is  b e s t done on an i n s t i t u t i o n a l b a s i s . Academic  Factors  S c h o l a s t i c measures of a l l k i n d s , standings, and  academic a p t i t u d e , p r e v i o u s  i n post-secondary s t u d i e s .  they s t i l l  They  went  on  Tinto  of  and  lated  of  achievement  than  not the same as p e r s i s t e n c e .  based on p a s t e x p e r i e n c e c o u l d education,  of completion. studies  between  per-  perfor-  achievement i n post-secondary s t u d i e s , but  that a student's perception  college  total  (1975) a l s o acknowledged t h a t most s t u d i e s  t h a t achievement was  most  attrition,  shown a d i r e c t p o s i t i v e c o r r e l a t i o n between p a s t  mance  be  t o say t h a t s c h o l a s t i c a p t i t u d e  measures were b e t t e r p r e d i c t o r s sistence.  proportion  of  Creedon  been found t o  c o n s i s t e n t p r e d i c t o r s of  o n l y accounted f o r a s m a l l  drop-outs.  correlates  Pantages and  (1978) s t a t e d t h a t w h i l e such measures had the most s i g n i f i c a n t and  school  academic background,  l e v e l achieved, have a l l been s t u d i e d as  persistence  had  secondary  and  of h i s o r her own  influence  persistence  a and  specuability  expectations  for  consequently commitment t o the  goal  Lenning e t a l . (1980) noted showed  He  noted  that,  although  significant, positive relationship entrance  examination  scores,  19 students  who  dropped  out  voluntarily  also t y p i c a l l y  s c o r e s which p r e d i c t e d success i n c o l l e g e . of  student  attrition  at  1976)  major  review  f e d e r a l s e r v i c e academies i n the  U n i t e d S t a t e s (Department o f Defense, sportation,  A  had  Commerce,  and  concluded s i m i l a r l y t h a t w h i l e  measures o f s p e c i f i c a b i l i t i e s i n t o an  overall  a b i l i t y p r o v i d e d the b e s t p r e d i c t o r o f who  Tran-  combining  measure  of  would l e a v e t h e i r  s t u d i e s , none o f t h e s e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s had been found t o  be  r e l a t e d t o v o l u n t a r y r e s i g n a t i o n due t o l a c k o f m o t i v a t i o n . A number o f s t u d i e s o f a d u l t d i s t a n c e l e a r n e r s shown  have  t h a t , g e n e r a l l y , the lower a person's p r e v i o u s educa-  t i o n a l q u a l i f i c a t i o n s , the more drop-out  (Woodley  and  likely  Parlett,  1983;  he  or  she  AU Trends,  is  #2,  to  1985;  B a r t e l s , 1982).  Kennedy and Powell  study  the Open U n i v e r s i t y i n B r i t a i n t o show t h a t  done  at  " l a c k o f academic preparedness tor  in  many  (1976) used r e s u l t s o f a  does seem t o be a major  fac-  cases i n i n c r e a s i n g the p r e s s u r e s upon a s t u -  dents  1  time and energy".  the  m a j o r i t y o f s t u d e n t s p o s s e s s i n g lower q u a l i f i c a t i o n s  not drop-out of  them  do  They p o i n t e d out t h a t  "...  while do  e x p r e s s l y f o r academic reasons, r e l a t i v e l y more so  than t h e i r b e t t e r q u a l i f i e d c o u n t e r p a r t s " .  (P. 69). Another sistence  is  important academic f a c t o r  study h a b i t s .  These may  previous l e v e l of education achieved. that  if  an  individual  has  related  o r may  to  per-  not be t i e d t o  However, i t i s l i k e l y  a l r e a d y s u c c e s s f u l l y achieved  20 p r o g r e s s i v e l y h i g h l e v e l s o f education, developed  study  t h a t he o r  h a b i t s which are b e n e f i c i a l .  Creedon (1978) p o i n t e d t o study h a b i t s as one factors  a f f e c t i n g persistence.  she  Pantages  students  r a t e d t h e i r own  good study h a b i t s and/or positively  correlated  obvious  They c i t e d r e s e a r c h  reports  (1980) r e p o r t e d tels  study h a b i t s .  greater with  numbers  persistence.  i d e n t i c a l conclusions  in  In a l l cases,  of  study  Lenning  hours et a l . Bar-  (1982) found the same p o s i t i v e c o r r e l a t i o n between time  dents  at  the  FernUniversitat.  s t u d i e s have shown between  and  and  i n t h e i r review.  spent s t u d y i n g and p e r s i s t e n c e f o r d i s t a n c e  and  and  o f the  which measured the amount of time spent on s t u d i e s , which  has  getting  that  is  a  direct  relationship  on a homestudy course immediately  c o m p l e t i o n o f the course (see, f o r example, Markowitz, 1982).  stu-  As w e l l , q u i t e a number of  there  started  education  DiSilvestro  There appears t o be no q u e s t i o n  study h a b i t s have a d i r e c t impact  on  persistence  for  that all  students. Motivational  Factors  Pantages and  Creedon (1978) i d e n t i f i e d a  motivational  These i n c l u d e m o t i v a t i o n a l  reasons f o r a t t e n d i n g ,  c a t i o n a l i n t e r e s t , and They  noted  of  f a c t o r s which have been s t u d i e d i n r e l a t i o n t o  college persistence. commitment,  number  that  family  these  reasons g i v e n by students  and  level  and  occupational goals,  edu-  peer  group  influence.  f a c t o r s were among the most common f o r t a k i n g a d e c i s i o n t o drop-out,  21 but  went  on t o say t h a t although s t u d i e s had  t i o n between m o t i v a t i o n a l  f a c t o r s and  y e t determined which, i f any, or how  of the  they c o u l d be measured.  cluded  that  a t t r i t i o n , no  Pantages  and  out  s l i g h t and  generally  of s i n g l e v a r i a b l e e x p l a n a t i o n s  contradicting  correlations  were  motivational  factors:  ment, and  (1980)  Pantages  found  between  level  peer group i n f l u e n c e .  conclusions  review.  similar  to  Both Pantages and  and  of  (1980)  from He  drop-  reported  Creedon.  persistence  Positive and  three  of degree a s p i r a t i o n ,  commit-  However, T i n t o  Pantages  and  Creedon (1978) and  (1978)  Creedon  concluded  that  t o i s o l a t e and  measure, and  variable predictors,  between t h e s e f a c t o r s and i n the  actual a t t r i t i o n .  although m o t i v a t i o n a l  in his  expecta-  It  f a c t o r s are  may  t h e r e appears t o be a  be  difficult  have l i m i t e d u s e f u l n e s s as  a t t r i t i o n which may  came  Lenning e t a l .  r e p o r t e d a p o s i t i v e r e l a t i o n s h i p between an  t i o n t o drop-out a t e n t r y and  tant  drop-out  f o r p r e d i c t i v e purposes.  evidence  gle  been  insignificant.  From t h e i r reviews, Lenning e t a l .  to  f a c t o r s were  (1978) s i m i l a r l y found t h a t the r e l a t i o n -  e d u c a t i o n was  c a u t i o n e d the use  con-  than had  s h i p between motives f o r p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n and adult  had  Creedon  i t j u s t might be t h a t m o t i v a t i o n a l  Boshier  one  f a c t o r s were p r e d i c t i v e  f a r l e s s important i n d e t e r m i n i n g p e r s i s t e n c e assumed.  shown a r e l a -  sin-  relationship  become  c o n t e x t of o t h e r d i f f i c u l t i e s w i t h study.  impor-  22 Personality Pantages and ing  Factors Creedon (1978) suggested, a f t e r review-  a number of s t u d i e s which r e p o r t e d  nonsignificant  i n g s , t h a t p e r s o n a l i t y f a c t o r s were not sistence  and  researchers outs,  and  attrition.  had  They  than  to  between  in  per-  evidence t h a t  types  of  drop-  t r a i t s g e n e r a l l y a s c r i b e d drop-outs  were more those o f s t u d e n t s who draw  pointed  not d i s t i n g u i s h e d  that negative  important  find-  had been r e q u i r e d  those o f s t u d e n t s who  Pantages and  Creedon a l s o p o i n t e d  measurement  instruments  to  with-  had withdrawn v o l u n t a r i l y . out the  available,  t e s t s " t o i s o l a t e major p s y c h o l o g i c a l  and  weakness the  of  the  inability  characteristics  of  that  w i l l be u s e f u l f o r p r e d i c t i o n o f p e r s i s t e n c e o r withdrawal", (p. 74).  not  meas-  urement problems, t h a t t h e r e v e r y w e l l might not be a  signi-  f i c a n t r e l a t i o n s h i p between p e r s o n a l i t y f a c t o r s  attri-  tion.  They concluded t h a t even i f t h e r e were  Tinto  (1975), a l s o concluded t h a t the important  t i n c t i o n between v o l u n t a r y withdrawals and s a l s must be made, and  were  dismispersonal-  similar  to  with-  drawals tended t o m a n i f e s t g r e a t e r o v e r s e n s i t i v i t y and  ego-  than  any  He  leavers  the  dis-  d i d p o i n t out t h a t v o l u n t a r y  tism  of p e r s i s t e r s .  academic  t h a t , i n many r e s p e c t s ,  i t y c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of v o l u n t a r y those  and  other group, and  speculated  that t h i s  could  a f f e c t s u c c e s s f u l s o c i a l i n t e g r a t i o n a t t h e i r post-secondary institution.  23 Lenning e t a l . (1980) d i s a g r e e d somewhat tages  and  Creedon's  and a t t r i t i o n . urement  with  c o n c l u s i o n s about p e r s o n a l i t y  They s t a t e d t h a t the shortcomings  instruments  did  not  Pan-  factors  of  meas-  make p e r s o n a l i t y f a c t o r s  l e s s important i n r e l a t i o n t o a t t r i t i o n and p e r s i s t e n c e .  any To  support t h e i r c o n c l u s i o n s , they p o i n t e d t o H o l l a n d ' s work i n the area o f p e r s o n a l i t y type and environmental  fit,  and  its  application to a t t r i t i o n . There i s t r u t h i n both  arguments.  While  Pantages  and Creedon were p r o b a b l y c o r r e c t i n s a y i n g t h a t p e r s o n a l i t y c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s are of predictors,  limited  value  as  single  variable  Lenning e t a l . were e q u a l l y c o r r e c t i n c o n c l u d -  i n g t h a t , when p e r s o n a l i t y f a c t o r s were s t u d i e d i n to i n s t i t u t i o n a l f i t , persistence. (Department  they became q u i t e important f a c t o r s i n  A study o f drop-out o f Defense,  For  from  military  academies  Commerce, and T r a n s p o r t a t i o n , 1976)  found p r e c i s e l y t h i s k i n d of relationship.  relation  personality/institutional  example,  those  fit  students with a higher  need f o r d e f e r e n c e and a u t h o r i t y were more l i k e l y t o p e r s i s t in  military  f o r autonomy.  academies than those s t u d e n t s w i t h a h i g h need Kennedy and Powell  (1976), i n t h e i r study  of  drop-outs a t the Open U n i v e r s i t y i n B r i t a i n , a l s o maintained t h a t p e r s o n a l i t y c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s were important, but o n l y i n context  of  circumstances.  model t o l o o k a t  how  They proposed  students  with  a  two-dimensional  "strong"  and  c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s might r e a c t t o v a r y i n g c i r c u m s t a n c e s .  "weak"  24  Summary: Student  Characteristics  There i s s t r o n g evidence t o tions  can  suggest  that  i d e n t i f y h i g h r i s k s t u d e n t s , t h a t t h e r e a r e some  r e l i a b l e predictor variables for persistence. evident  that  these are contextual.  By  studying  and drop-outs, discover  not  do  so i n  characteristics of t h e i r persisters  a p a r t i c u l a r i n s t i t u t i o n may w e l l be a b l e  to  i n s t i t u t i o n a l f a c t o r s which a r e h e l p i n g o r h i n d e r -  ing t h e i r students. between  I t i s equally  I n o t h e r words, a s t u -  dent who may p e r s i s t i n one i n s t i t u t i o n may another.  institu-  voluntary  Care  must  be  withdrawals  between temporary and permanent  taken  to  distinguish  and f o r c e d withdrawals, and withdrawals.  I n s t i t u t i o n a l C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s Related t o A t t r i t i o n As each student has i n d i v i d u a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s which a r e important  i n t h e a t t r i t i o n / p e r s i s t e n c e equation, so does  each i n s t i t u t i o n . this  had  been  Pantages and Creedon recognized  only  t h a t , t h e i n s t i t u t i o n a l environment considered  a  variable.  not o n l y attempt in  the  (1978)  noted  s i n c e about 1960. or  culture  t o a f f e c t change i n a p a r t i c u l a r  student,  but  they  also  begin  the a t t r i t i o n r a t e from t h e b e g i n n i n g .  by  who  never  has  direction  a t t r a c t i n g or influencing  F o r example, an open  d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n u n i v e r s i t y which a t t r a c t s student  Before  They p o i n t e d out t h a t i n s t i t u t i o n s  r e c r u i t i n g a p a r t i c u l a r k i n d o f student, t h e r e b y  adult  was  that  the  part-time  been away from s t u d i e s f o r q u i t e a  25 number o f y e a r s , has r u s t y study s k i l l s ,  no  post-secondary  e x p e r i e n c e , a f u l l - t i m e j o b and a f a m i l y , i s p r o b a b l y ing  start-  w i t h a student p o p u l a t i o n which many i n s t i t u t i o n s  call  'high  risk . 1  There are a number of i n s t i t u t i o n a l which  have  tion.  Most r e c e n t a t t r i t i o n r e s e a r c h  models  been  which  environmental result.  A  characteristics  found t o have some r e l a t i o n s h i p t o  examine  how  the  favors  student,  institution,  f a c t o r s come t o g e t h e r t o produce a  These  looked  at  Creedon  'institutional  the match between student  needs and p e r s o n a l i t y , and a t i n s t i t u t i o n a l a b i l i t y t o the  a l s o an important  Institutional  characteristics  He began w i t h Durkheim's t h e o r y  develop  theory  a  as determinants  w e l l as commitments t o individual's  of  o f drop-out which viewed an  i n t e r a c t i o n s w i t h both academic and institution  were  f a c t o r i n T i n t o ' s (1975) t h e o r y o f student  attrition.  the  to  individual's  systems  of  an  of p e r s o n a l g o a l commitments as educational  institution.  The modify  o r her g o a l and i n s t i t u t i o n a l commitments i n ways  which  to 94).  which  experiences  social  suicide  i n the system " c o n t i n u a l l y  lead (p.  meet  s t u d e n t ' s needs and t o p r e s e n t an image s u i t a b l e t o the  student's p e r s o n a l i t y .  his  and  particular  number of s t u d i e s c i t e d by Pantages and  theory.  attri-  interactional  (1978) and Lenning e t a l . (1980) support the fit'  would  persistence  and/or t o v a r y i n g forms o f  Spady (1971) a l s o proposed  emphasized  institutional  a  model  of  characteristics.  drop-out". drop-out He  sup-  26  ported  e a r l i e r r e s e a r c h which  press",  of  an  life  I n Spady's view, " f u l l  places  integration into the  o f t h e c o l l e g e depends on s u c c e s s f u l l y meeting  the demands o f both i t s s o c i a l and academic 39).  "environmental  r e f e r r i n g t o t h e demands which an i n s t i t u t i o n  upon a s t u d e n t . common  spoke  systems".  T i n t o ' s and Spady's t h e o r i e s w i l l be d i s c u s s e d  (p.  further  under t h e s e c t i o n on " T h e o r e t i c a l Models o f A t t r i t i o n " . In a comparison study o f d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n tions  i n Germany  pointed tion  and  Sweden,  Bartels  and W i l l e n  out how t h e p r e v a i l i n g a t t i t u d e s w i t h i n an  toward  such  institu(1985)  institu-  i s s u e s as a t t r i t i o n had an impact on how  the i n s t i t u t i o n measures and d e a l t  with  c o u l d p a r t i a l l y account f o r " d i v e r g e n t  t h e problem,  drop-out  Some o f t h e i n s t i t u t i o n a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s  and  statistics".  which  have  been  s t u d i e d a r e reviewed below. Size/Image/Status Pantages and Creedon (1978) r e p o r t e d  that there  was  some evidence t o suggest t h a t s m a l l e r i n s t i t u t i o n s had lower overall a t t r i t i o n rates.  T h i s supports t h e n o t i o n t h a t  fre-  quent c o n t a c t w i t h f a c u l t y and f e l l o w s t u d e n t s promotes p e r sistence. (1975),  Pantages and  Creedon  concluded,  as  d i d Tinto  t h a t s i z e was r e l a t e d t o a t t r i t i o n b u t " i n a manner  yet unclear".  (p. 115). Lenning  et  a l . (1980)  reported  h i g h r e t e n t i o n r a t e s a t more p r e s t i g i o u s i n s t i t u t i o n s w i t h a high cost of attending,  and s p e c u l a t e d  that  this  might  be  27 due  to  perceived  b e n e f i t s on the p a r t o f the student,  t h e t y p e o f s t u d e n t admitted. which  They a l s o  reported  research  showed g r e a t e r p e r s i s t e n c e a t p r i v a t e l y funded  t u t i o n s , those w i t h r e l i g i o u s a f f i l i a t i o n s , clearly  d e f i n e d m i s s i o n statement  which was  and  insti-  and those w i t h a communicated t o  s t u d e n t s and o t h e r c o n s t i t u e n t s . Housing Pantages and (1980)  both  reported  t h a t s t u d e n t s who persist  in  that l i v i n g integration  Creedon that  (1978)  and  Lenning  et  i t had been shown c o n s i s t e n t l y  l i v e d on campus were much more  their studies.  likely  to  Pantages and Creedon s p e c u l a t e d  i n student r e s i d e n c e s  might  facilitate  social  i n t o campus l i f e and promote f e e l i n g s o f  f a c t i o n w i t h the  al.  satis-  institution.  Student-Faculty Interaction A c c o r d i n g t o Pantages and Creedon (1978), ity  of  the  relationship  between a student and h i s o r her  p r o f e s s o r s i s o f c r u c i a l importance t i o n w i t h the i n s t i t u t i o n " .  "the q u a l -  i n determining  (p. 79).  satisfac-  Lenning e t a l . (1980)  r e p o r t e d t h a t t h e i r review supported t h i s statement. (1975)  stressed  the importance  Tinto  of student i n t e r a c t i o n w i t h  f a c u l t y t o both s o c i a l and academic i n t e g r a t i o n o f t h e  stu-  dent and the consequent enhancement o f i n s t i t u t i o n a l commitment. reward"  He c a l l e d f a c u l t y i n t e r a c t i o n for  the student.  an  important  "social  P a s c a r e l l a and T e r e n z i n i (1979b)  28 found  that  when  student/faculty  they  controlled  contact  still  f o r other  variables,  had s i g n i f i c a n t  w i t h s t u d e n t s ' d e c i s i o n s t o withdraw o r  correlation  persist.  In  this  study, P a s c a r e l l a and T e r e n z i n i f o c u s s e d on i n f o r m a l c o n t a c t outside of  the  classroom.  They  found  that  there  were  male/female d i f f e r e n c e s i n response t o t h e content o f i n f o r mal d i s c u s s i o n s , b u t t h e e f f e c t f o r both sexes was when  greatest  d i s c u s s i o n s f o c u s s e d on i n t e l l e c t u a l o r course  related  matters. A number o f s t u d i e s o f d i s t a n c e have  pointed  to  the  importance  education  o f t u t o r i n t e r a c t i o n as a  f a c t o r i n p e r s i s t e n c e ( F l i n c k , 1978; Rekkedal, and  Parlett,  1983;  contacts  which  Sweet (1982) i n v e s t i g a t e d t h e  students  had  with  through t h e telephone t u t o r i n g system a t t h e Institute  i n B r i t i s h Columbia.  and frequency o f pleters  student-initiated  and non-completers,  their tutors Open  calls  from  both  com-  and a l s o found t h a t both groups tutors.  Sweet  "... t h a t t u t o r s have been s u c c e s s f u l i n c r e a t i n g  a c l i m a t e o f s u p p o r t i v e n e s s f o r t h e i r students — pleters  Learning  He found a s i m i l a r p a t t e r n  c o n s i s t e n t l y gave p o s i t i v e r a t i n g s t o t h e i r concluded  1981; Woodley  Kennedy and Powell, 1976; Sweet, 1982;  P h y t h i a n and Clements, 1982). personal  students  and  non-completers".  telephone t u t o r s  i n distance  both  com-  (p. 8 ) . He p o i n t e d out t h a t education  institutions  are  i d e a l l y s i t u a t e d t o p r o v i d e t h e k i n d o f feedback  t o students  which P a s c a r e l l a and  contributed  Terenzini  (1979b)  found  29 most t o p e r s i s t e n c e , t h a t i s , c o n t a c t s t u a l or course r e l a t e d m a t e r i a l s . learning  situation,  Since  time  on p r o v i d i n g p e r s o n a l  than  the  distance  their  classroom  feedback t o each student  about h i s o r her academic p r o g r e s s . central  in  intellec-  i n s t r u c t i o n i s embodied i n the p r i n t e d  package, t u t o r s can spend more counterparts  f o c u s i n g on  The  r o l e a t Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y .  tutor also plays The  r e s u l t s of  a  indi-  v i d u a l l e a r n e r t r a c k i n g as p a r t o f the REDEAL p r o j e c t showed a  r e l a t i o n s h i p between l e a r n e r m o t i v a t i o n  t a c t with tutors  (Coldeway, MacRury, and  There i s no doubt t h a t is  positive.  As  Sweet  student/faculty  interaction  (1982)  stated  frequent  con-  Spencer, 1980).  an important f a c t o r i n p e r s i s t e n c e and  e q u a l l y obvious t h a t not a l l  and  "...  interaction  attrition. is  It is  perceived  e f f e c t i v e n e s s of  t h e s e exchanges as i n s t r u c t i o n a l feedback i s enhanced t o extent  that  instructors  are  responsive  t h e i r i n t e r a c t i o n s w i t h students". also  recognized  the  need  and  (p. 8).  supportive  Rekkedal  the  student.  He  introduce  a "personal  education  system.  Although "... for  reducing  tutor/counsellor"  support  into  the  and  distance  Services  the m a j o r i t y  attrition  in  (1981)  proposed t o combine t h e s e r o l e s ,  Student Support  the  f o r the t u t o r t o have a broader  r o l e i n p r o v i d i n g " c o u n s e l l i n g " as w e l l as academic to  as  of  the  recommendations  have been concerned w i t h  enlarging  30 the r o l e and (Pantages  scope of c o u n s e l l i n g s e r v i c e s f o r s t u d e n t s  and  Creedon,  evaluative research effects  of  has  1978, been  p. done  student s e r v i c e s Creedon  89), to  relatively  find  out  and  the  attri-  tion.  Pantages and  which  have been conducted on the impact of c o u n s e l l i n g p r o -  grams show t h a t t h e r e was  reported  little  what  are on p e r s i s t e n c e (1978)  ..."  a significant result  a t t r i t i o n r a t e s f o r those s t u d e n t s who the s e r v i c e s . selling  had  and  other  student  However, they  services,  did and  not  that  a  com-  They a l s o commented on the e f f i c a c y o f academic  grams i n r e d u c i n g  learning assistance  enough r e s e a r c h  e x i s t s t o reach any  conclusions  and  placements,  f o r e i g n student programs, f i n a n c i a l a i d a d v i s i n g , student  pro-  attrition.  about o t h e r s e r v i c e s such as c a r e e r p l a n n i n g  abled  with coun-  recommended b e t t e r p u b l i c i t y and  a d v i s i n g , o r i e n t a t i o n programs, and  Not  that  a l s o showed t h a t many s t u d e n t s  number of s t u d i e s had munication.  reducing  some c o n t a c t  services could increase persistence.  counselling  studies  in  Lenning e t a l . (1980) a l s o found  noted t h a t r e s e a r c h use  that  services.  dent s e r v i c e s such as  In d i s t a n c e  advising,  and  dis-  e d u c a t i o n , where s t u -  counselling,  and  student  advocacy "are o n l y b e g i n n i n g t o be seen as an important p a r t of l e a r n e r s Brindley, the  educational  1986,  p. 60),  impact of student  offered  by  tutors  experience" t h e r e has  support and  other  (McKinnis-Rankin  and  been almost no r e s e a r c h  services  outside  academics.  Both  of  on  those  Rekkedal  31 (1981), and distance  D a n i e l and Marquis (1979) noted  education  institutions  had  that  very  few  employed p r o f e s s i o n a l  c o u n s e l l o r s o r f o r m a l i z e d the c o u n s e l l i n g f u n c t i o n . Other I n s t i t u t i o n a l F a c t o r s A number of other tion,  and  course  P a r l e t t (1983).  packages  where  content  These  did  difficulty  not  live  up  attri-  were i d e n t i -  included  (boring, u n c l e a r ,  f o r number o f c r e d i t s , l e v e l of courses  Education  f a c t o r s which c o n t r i b u t e t o  are p a r t i c u l a r t o d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n  f i e d by Woodley and designed  i n Distance  badly  heavy workload inappropriate), to  expectations  c r e a t e d by the course d e s c r i p t i o n , mandatory t e l e v i s i o n radio and  broadcasts  which  caused a c c e s s i b i l i t y  slow turn-around-time on  Holmberg  (1982)  the  also reported  t i o n between turn-around-time Bartels  marking  of  and  difficulties, assignments.  s p e c i f i c a l l y on the c o r r e l a and  course  completion,  and  (1982) commented on the tendency f o r course authors  to write using t h e i r colleagues  a t other u n i v e r s i t i e s r a t h e r  than s t u d e n t s as t h e i r t a r g e t group. Peer Group The peer  group  Influence  l i t e r a t u r e suggests a s t r o n g c o r r e l a t i o n between influence  t r a d i t i o n a l student.  and  a t t r i t i o n f o r the 18-24  year o l d  Tinto  (1975) concluded t h a t ,  even  the p e r s o n / i n s t i t u t i o n f i t was  not  ideal, social integration  l e a d i n g t o p e r s i s t e n c e c o u l d s t i l l be a t t a i n e d through ficient  friendship  support  from  if  others with l i k e  suf-  values.  32 Pantages and  Creedon (1978)  which a peer group p l a y e d with persistence. peer  group  discussed  the  i n developing  important  attitudes associated  Lenning e t a l . (1980) a l s o concluded t h a t  influence  was  strongly related to  p a r t i c u l a r l y i n the development of e d u c a t i o n a l For the a d u l t p a r t - t i m e ence  is  also  important  student, peer  not  associated  institution.  is  particularly  This  education  students.  addressed  further  values. group  influ-  with  the  the  educational  the case f o r d i s t a n c e  For t h i s reason, peer i n f l u e n c e w i l l in  the  f o l l o w i n g s e c t i o n s on  Environmental F a c t o r s R e l a t e d by  persistence,  (Bean and Metzner, 1985), but  peer group i s o f t e n  Drop-Out P r o v i d e d  role  t o A t t r i t i o n " and  be  "External  "Reasons f o r  Students."  E x t e r n a l Environmental F a c t o r s R e l a t e d  to A t t r i t i o n  Environmental f a c t o r s have not been c i t e d  as  major  v a r i a b l e s i n f l u e n c i n g a t t r i t i o n f o r younger s t u d e n t s engaged i n f u l l - t i m e study. three  external  Metzner  (1980)  mentioned  social forces.  On the o t h e r hand,  students,  t h i s emphasis.  and developed a conceptual They  included  such  older  model t o  factors  as  hours o f employment, o u t s i d e encouragement, f a m i l y bilities,  and  Bean  (1985) emphasized the impact of f a c t o r s i n the  e x t e r n a l environment on the a t t r i t i o n r a t e s o f time  only  v a r i a b l e s i n t h e i r review: economic c y c l e s ,  m i l i t a r y d r a f t , and and  Lenning e t a l .  opportunity  t o t r a n s f e r t o other  partreflect  finances, responsi-  institutions.  33 Rekkedal sons  (1981) concluded t h a t the most common  f o r s t u d e n t s dropping d i s t a n c e study were not  rea-  inherent  i n the study method, but r a t h e r concerned the same d i f f i c u l t i e s which a l l a d u l t p a r t - t i m e  s t u d e n t s f a c e , namely compet-  i n g demands  and  for  their  time  changes  i n t h e i r circumstances.  reported  similar findings.  these  studies  relied  many r e s e a r c h e r s students  and  Woodley and  unforeseen  P a r l e t t (1983)  I t should be noted t h a t both r e p o r t s from drop-outs, and  b e l i e v e reasons f o r  drop-out  of that  provided  by  tend t o be r a t i o n a l i z a t i o n s o r o v e r s i m p l i f i c a t i o n s  o f a complex p r o c e s s and  on  energy,  (Phythian  and  Clements,  1982;  Kennedy  Powell, 1976). The  f o l l o w i n g are the f a c t o r s  associated  environment o u t s i d e o f the e d u c a t i o n a l mostly commonly a s s o c i a t e d w i t h Financial  with  the  i n s t i t u t i o n which are  attrition.  Factors  Lenning e t a l . (1980) noted t h a t l a c k of f i n a n c e s i s often  g i v e n as a reason f o r dropping out.  They p o i n t e d  t h a t s t u d i e s w i t h younger f u l l - t i m e s t u d e n t s p o s i t i v e c o r r e l a t i o n between the extent perceives and  a problem  attrition.  f i n a n c i a l a i d was ingly,  (regardless of  They  t o which the actual  employment had  shown  a  student  situation),  r e p o r t e d t h a t the amount and  also related to persistence,  that part-time  with persistence.  the  have  out  and  type of surpris-  a positive correlation  34  Beal and Metzner (1985) noted i n t h e i r cerning  older  reported and  that  part-time  that  students  concern over f i n a n c e s as o f t e n as younger  students,  s t u d e n t s mentioned f i n a n c i a l  as f r e q u e n t l y as f u l l - t i m e s t u d e n t s as a drawal  from  studies.  They  also  reason  reported  difficulty for  negatively  related  t o p e r s i s t e n c e and  s t u d e n t s t h a n younger s t u d e n t s category.  Both  Rekkedal  fell  (1981)  (1983) c i t e d l a c k of f i n a n c e s and important  factors  into and  with-  that f u l l - t i m e  employment o r employment i n excess of 20-25 hours was  con-  adult  part-time  students  review  per  week  t h a t more o l d e r this  employment  Woodley and P a r l e t t  demands of  employment  i n drop-out from d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n  as stu-  dies. O u t s i d e Encouragement E x t e r n a l support and by  friends,  the c r i t i c a l student  family,  since  provided  employers i s thought t o be one  factors i n persistence  r a t h e r than on research  and  encouragement t o study  f o r the a d u l t  of  part-time  t h e i r r e f e r e n c e group tends t o be o f f campus (Bean and Metzner, 1985)  However, not  enough  e x i s t s as y e t t o make the k i n d of d e f i n i t i v e s t a t e -  ments which are p o s s i b l e  about  younger  students  p o s i t i v e impact o f p a r e n t a l encouragement on t h e i r  and  the  attrition  rates. Distance reported  lack  education  students  have  consistently  of encouragement from f a m i l y , p a r t i c u l a r l y a  35 spouse,  and/or l a c k of support from employer as reasons  d r o p p i n g s t u d i e s (Woodley and P a r l e t t , 1983; B a r t e l s , 1982).  van Wijk,  Encouragement, i n such cases, may  than p s y c h o l o g i c a l support.  Pragmatic  as a spouse t a k i n g over household  for 1983;  mean more  forms o f support  duties,  or  an  such  employer  r e i m b u r s i n g the c o s t of course o r g i v i n g time o f f f o r examin a t i o n s are r e p o r t e d by d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n s t u d e n t s as b e i n g important t o p e r s i s t e n c e . Change i n Circumstances Change i n circumstances i s tioned  in  full-time regard  the  literature  students,  but  rarely,  regarding is  consistently  to adult part-time students.  compete  with  in  marital  status,  of  the  n e g a t i v e way.  with  The r o l e o f student i s Study  commitment  demands from f a m i l y , work, f r i e n d s ,  (1983) l i s t  hours o r workload, some  by younger  if  there  circumstances which upsets the b a l a n c e .  and P a r l e t t  men-  mentioned  community, and o f t e n s t u d i e s g e t s e t a s i d e change  ever,  drop-out  o f t e n a minor one f o r t h e a d u l t l e a r n e r . must  if  i l l n e s s of  a  relative,  is  and a  Woodley  change  in  g i v i n g b i r t h , moving house, change i n work and changing or  factors  starting  employment  as  which can i n f l u e n c e p e r s i s t e n c e i n a  This i s discussed further  s e c t i o n , "Reasons f o r Drop-Out P r o v i d e d by  in  the  following  Students".  36 Reasons f o r Drop-Out P r o v i d e d by Although t h e r e i s a which  students  describe  Students  great their  deal  of  reasons  literature  in  f o r d r o p p i n g out,  t h e r e i s some debate about the r e l a t i v e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f information. withdrawal  the  The most common c r i t i c i s m i s t h a t reasons f o r  p r o v i d e d by s t u d e n t s  are  probably  rationaliza-  t i o n s , g i v e n t h a t t h e r e are n e g a t i v e c o n n o t a t i o n s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h drop-out  (Kennedy and Powell, 1976), and  are  given  usually  d e c i s i o n t o drop. reasons  tend  in  retrospect,  As  1980).  already  described  in  this  w e l l , i t has been suggested t h a t s t u d e n t s own  motivations  may  (Lenning  et  N o t w i t h s t a n d i n g these c a u t i o n s , the reasons f o r  withdrawal p r o v i d e d by s t u d e n t s have important  unidimensional  t o o v e r - s i m p l i f y what i s p r o b a b l y a v e r y com-  not t o t a l l y understand t h e i r al.,  reasons  not a t t h e time o f the  Another c r i t i c i s m i s t h a t  p l e x i n t e r p l a y o f v a r i a b l e s as chapter.  that  to  be  p i e c e o f the a t t r i t i o n p u z z l e .  considered  an  As Lenning e t a l .  p o i n t e d out, the reasons g i v e n by s t u d e n t s were p a r t o f development such,  of  their  institutions  r a t i o n a l e may  p e r s o n a l drop-out r a t i o n a l e s , and  could  learn  from  them.  be o p e r a t i n g f o r o t h e r s t u d e n t s who  drop-outs g i v e n a p a r t i c u l a r s e t o f c i r c u m s t a n c e . p l e , Woodley and P a r l e t t  as  The  same  may  become  For exam-  (1983) quoted from a student a t the  Open U n i v e r s i t y , "Work p r e s s u r e s meant t h a t I had l e s s for  the  Open U n i v e r s i t y study —  but I guess t h a t I would  have s t u c k w i t h the course i f I had found i t more  time still  interest-  37 ing".  (p.  8 ) . The reasons f o r drop-out c i t e d by s t u d e n t s  have been g i v e n w i t h such c o n s i s t e n c y t h a t broad t i o n s have been developed.  However, as Pantages and Creedon  (1978) noted, t h e s e a r e o f v a r y i n g importance student  classifica-  and i n s t i t u t i o n a l c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s .  depending  on  The most common  of t h e s t a n d a r d c a t e g o r i e s o f reasons which s t u d e n t s p r o v i d e f o r d r o p p i n g out f o l l o w . Academic R e a s o n s / D i s s a t i s f a c t i o n w i t h The most  frequently  stated  Institution  reasons  for  drop-out  among young f u l l - t i m e s t u d e n t s have t o do w i t h academic conc e r n s : d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n w i t h matters such as bility, tions  curriculum,  course  availa-  s c h e d u l i n g , grades, and degree r e g u l a -  (Lenning e t a l . , 1980).  I n two s t u d i e s  of  drop-outs  from d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n c o u r s e s c i t e d by Woodley and P a r l e t t (1983), l e s s than 30% o f s t u d e n t s r e f e r r e d caused  by  the  form  and content o f t h e c o u r s e s .  t h e r e i s much evidence t o show t h a t a d u l t than  holding  be  In f a c t ,  students,  rather  t h e i n s t i t u t i o n accountable i n any way, o f t e n  blame themselves can  t o study problems  f o r non-completion  particularly  (Bartels,  1982).  This  t r u e f o r d i s t a n c e educations students  who do n o t u s u a l l y know f e l l o w students w i t h whom  they  can  compare e x p e r i e n c e s .  as  Financial  Reasons  Financial  reasons f o r dropping out a r e c i t e d  often  as  academic reasons by young f u l l - t i m e  almost  students.  38 There i s some evidence t o suggest t h a t difficulty  is  more  perceived  important i n i n f l u e n c i n g a d e c i s i o n t o  drop-out than whether r e a l f i n a n c i a l d i f f i c u l t y ( T i n t o , 1975; lett  Pantages and  Creedon, 1978).  (1983) noted l a c k o f  given  financial  frequency o f such r e p o r t s was "economic  reasons"  not as  support  given. one  does  as  a  courses,  but  Rekkedal  of the most  older part-time  Par-  reason the  (1981)  frequently  c i t e d reasons f o r d i s c o n t i n u a t i o n o f correspondence a t NKT-skolen i n Norway.  exist  Woodley and  by drop-outs from d i s t a n c e education  listed  financial  studies  Bean and Metzner (1985) noted t h a t  students  reported  financial  o f t e n as t h e i r younger f u l l - t i m e c o u n t e r p a r t s  concerns  as  i n giving rea-  sons f o r withdrawal from c o l l e g e . M o t i v a t i o n a l Reasons Pantages and student-provided factors'.  time  reasons  for  drop-out under  in  studies,  and  inability  or  Bean and Metzner (1985) r e p o r t e d students  reasons, and usefulness sistence.  often  studied  speculated of  t h a t f o r these  studies  Reasons g i v e n  was  an  older  to  part-  perceived  factor  i n per-  f o r drop-out by a d u l t d i s t a n c e  (1983) support t h i s s p e c u l a t i o n . career  that  important  Parlett  as  of  unwillingness  students,  s t u d e n t s r e p o r t e d by Rekkedal  such  lack  f o r pragmatic c a r e e r - r e l a t e d  cation  reasons  'motivational  These i n c l u d e d u n c e r t a i n t y about g o a l s ,  interest study.  Creedon (1978) c a t e g o r i z e d a v a r i e t y o f  goal  (1981) and Woodley  changes,  They c i t e d goal  eduand  student  achievement  39 through d i f f e r e n t means, and  s t u d i e s not s u i t e d t o g o a l .  In a study o f students tels  (1982)  reported  that  a t the F e r n U n i v e r s i t a t , students  c i t e d one  important f a c t o r s i n p e r s i s t e n c e as having choose  a  major  subject  according  o f the most  the  ability  to i n t e r e s t .  Metzner (1985) c l a s s i f i e d i n t e r e s t o r l a c k o f i t broad  g e n e r a l heading o f " s a t i s f a c t i o n " .  category  more  if  and  under  the  They d e f i n e d  this  enjoyed  i n t e r e s t were prob-  important f a c t o r s i n p e r s i s t e n c e f o r o l d e r p a r t -  time students that  to  and t h e i r l e v e l of i n t e r e s t o r boredom.  They r e p o r t e d t h a t r o l e s a t i s f a c t i o n and ably  Bean  o f reasons as the extent t o which students  the r o l e o f student,  Bar-  than younger f u l l - t i m e s t u d e n t s .  s a t i s f a c t i o n l e v e l was  f o r the o l d e r s t u d e n t s ' t i v e e f f e c t on  They  noted  h i g h , the competing demands  time might not have had  such a nega-  persistence.  Change i n Circumstances T h i s t o p i c has Environmental  a l r e a d y been covered under  Factors  Related  some mention here as one sons  many  deserves  of the most c o n s i s t e n t l y c i t e d  g i v e n f o r withdrawal by a d u l t p a r t - t i m e  and Metzner, 1985). with  t o A t t r i t i o n " , but  "External  A d u l t students  o t h e r commitments, and  balance  students their  household  move,  r e s u l t i n withdrawal g i v e n  or  (Bean  studies  a change i n c i r c u m s t a n c e s  such as f a m i l y i l l n e s s o r death, change i n employment tions,  rea-  change certain  in other  condi-  marital status conditions.  can In  40 studies in  of  drop-out  from d i s t a n c e  circumstances i s usually  adult  students  (Kennedy  P y t h i a n and  Clements,  W o o d l e y and  Parlett,  Theoretical  Models of  By sists  f a r the  solely  agreement  that  and  1982;  nal  descriptions research.  the  introduced  is  needed  narrow, t a k i n g Others are dent,  one  suicide  as  or  and  more u s e f u l  Spady first  are  1983;  is  required  few  attained  now  general  c o n c e p t u a l models  and  i n order to various  of  variables drop-out. longitudi-  isolate  factors  and  during  c o n c e p t u a l models have been  literature. a few  con-  Some o f  factors  environmental  for research  into  these  are  consideration.  i n t e r a c t i o n of factors.  p u r p o s e s and  The  stulatter  for  plan-  strategies.  (1971) i s u s u a l l y  model o f an  factors  of time to produce  much w i d e r , e n c o m p a s s i n g t h e  ning retention  the  A  attrition  institutional  t e n d t o be  causal  themselves to m u l t i v a r i a t e  only  Wijk,  complex i n t e r p l a y o f  a period  process.  i n the  1982;  of drop-out research  of  r e l a t i v e importance of  drop-out  by  Bartels, van  However, t h e r e  path analyses which are  measure the  1981;  often  Attrition  over  These models l e n d  1976;  change  1983).  what  interact  Powell,  Rekkedal,  a t t r i t i o n which recognize the which  r e a s o n c i t e d most  largest portion  of  through empirical  the  education courses,  attrition.  analogy  credited He  f o r drop-out.  with  introducing  used Durkheim's t h e o r y His  model d e s c r i b e d  of the  41 a s s i m i l a t i o n p r o c e s s o f a student i n t o an e d u c a t i o n a l i n s t i t u t i o n , t a k i n g i n t o account student c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s and institution's was  social  and academic demands.  Spady's t h e o r y  t h a t i f the student c o u l d meet the demands o f the  tution  the  and f e l t rewarded i n the p r o c e s s , i t was  insti-  likely  that  s u c c e s s f u l a s s i m i l a t i o n and p e r s i s t e n c e would be the r e s u l t . Tinto but  went  (1975) developed a t h e o r y s i m i l a r  beyond  p r e d i c t i v e model. as  a s o c i a l system  description  of  T i n t o viewed  the e d u c a t i o n a l  a  series  of  process  Spady's  to build a institution  i n t o which the p e r s i s t i n g student became  i n t e g r a t e d over time. as  the  to  He d e s c r i b e d the i n t e g r a t i o n  interactions  between  process  the person and  s o c i a l and academic systems o f the i n s t i t u t i o n .  The  the  person  e n t e r e d w i t h c e r t a i n completion g o a l s and i n s t i t u t i o n a l commitments which, over time, were m o d i f i e d by t h e q u a l i t y frequency upon  of  social  whether  strengthened  the or  and academic i n t e r a c t i o n s .  students' weakened  goals  and  and  Depending  commitments  were  by t h i s p r o c e s s , they would drop  out o r p e r s i s t . A number o f s t u d i e s have t e s t e d the Spady and models. of  The b e s t known o f these are the v a l i d a t i o n s t u d i e s  P a s c a r e l l a and T e r e n z i n i .  They have  the T i n t o t h e o r y i n a v a r i e t y o f ways. man  Tinto  found  support  for  In a study o f f r e s h -  y e a r s t u d e n t s a t one c o l l e g e , they were a b l e t o show, t o  some  degree,  that  student  characteristics  e x p e r i e n c e s i n t e r a c t e d t o produce  persistence  and  academic  or  drop-out  42  decisions  (Terenzini  Terenzini,  1979a).  late  and  the  student  contact  according  1979b).  construct  validity  zini  Pascarella,  Although  they  to  academic i n t e g r a t i o n  of  the T i n t o model ( P a s c a r e l l a  and  Another o f t h e i r s t u d i e s  looked  at  1980)  and  found  support  s o c i a l and  the  that  for  P a s c a r e l l a and  f o r a t t r i t i o n and  a multidimensional major  Terenzini  importance of  the  model s  of  academic  instrument  the T i n t o model.  u s e f u l f o r t h e o r e t i c a l and  as  for  as  voluntary  (1980) a l s o found support  the model was well  practical  two  1  integra-  completion by d e v e l o p i n g and  measurement  dimensions  it.  academic i n t e g r a t i o n , were s i g -  the p r e d i c t i v e v a l i d i t y o f s o c i a l and  tion  the  o f T i n t o ' s c o n c e p t u a l framework (Teren-  n i f i c a n t i n d i s t i n g u i s h i n g between p e r s i s t e r s and  for  isohow  s t u d e n t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s , they found  leavers.  and  showed  f e l t that Tinto overstated  major c o n s t r u c t s ,  Pascarella  as a v a r i a b l e and  t o both s o c i a l and  Terenzini,  and  1978;  In another study, they were a b l e t o  student-faculty  t h i s contributed  Pascarella,  to  testing  assess  the  They concluded t h a t research  purposes,  purposes of p l a n n i n g  retention  strategies. Adult because  they  p a r t - t i m e s t u d e n t s do not have  much  more  defined their  time  on  campus.  and  students  who  in  the  i n s t i t u t i o n a l commitment.  same The  and  spend  Hence, s o c i a l i n t e g r a t i o n  by T i n t o does not c o n t r i b u t e goals  model  l e s s i n t e r a c t i o n with f a c u l t y  f e l l o w s t u d e n t s than younger p a r t - t i m e much  f i t the T i n t o  way  as to  significant  43 others i n adult students  l i v e s are usually  1  t h e same  they had b e f o r e commencing t h e i r s t u d i e s — employer and co-workers.  ones  family, friends,  This i s p a r t i c u l a r l y applicable to  d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n students who study i n t h e i r own homes and have even l e s s c o n t a c t w i t h f a c u l t y and o t h e r s t u d e n t s do campus-based p a r t - t i m e l e a r n e r s . developed adult  Bean and Metzner (1985)  a c o n c e p t u a l model o f t h e a t t r i t i o n  part-time  students.  They  proposed  d e c i s i o n s were based on f o u r s e t s o f ground  and  enrolment study  defining  and  course  v a r i a b l e s such as f i n a n c e s , encouragement,  goal  availability; hours  of  1)  back-  3) environmental  employment,  outside  4) p s y c h o l o g i c a l  (of s t u d i e s ) ,  commitment and s t r e s s .  can c o n t r i b u t e d i r e c t l y ,  satisfac-  These s e t s o f v a r i a b l e s  i n d i r e c t l y o r can i n t e r a c t t o  con-  decision.  Bean and Metzner (1985) "compensatory  withdrawal  variables:  and f a m i l y r e s p o n s i b i l i t y ;  t r i b u t e t o t h e drop-out  that  2) academic v a r i a b l e s such as  outcomes such as p e r c e i v e d u t i l i t y tion,  process f o r  v a r i a b l e s o f t h e student such as age,  s t a t u s , and gender;  habits  than  interaction  proposed  effects"  that  there  were  (p. 49) i n t h e model as  follows. When academic and environmental v a r i a b l e s a r e both... favorable t o persistence, s t u d e n t s should remain i n s c h o o l , and when both a r e poor, students s h o u l d l e a v e school. When academic v a r i a b l e s are good, b u t environmental variables are poor, s t u d e n t s should l e a v e s c h o o l , and the p o s i t i v e effects o f t h e academic v a r i a b l e s on r e t e n t i o n w i l l n o t be seen.  44 When environmental support i s good and academic support i s poor, s t u d e n t s would be expected t o remain e n r o l l e d — the environmental support compensates f o r low scores on the academic v a r i a b l e s . (pp. 491-2) Bean and Metzner academic  described  outcomes,  a  similar  relationship  among  marks and p s y c h o l o g i c a l outcomes.  suggested t h a t the o l d e r student might p e r s i s t  They  despite  low  marks i f the p s y c h o l o g i c a l outcomes were p o s i t i v e ( f o r examp l e , s e e i n g the u s e f u l n e s s  of t h e i r s t u d i e s ) .  The  compensa-  t o r y e f f e c t s between v a r i a b l e s i n the Bean and Metzner model are s i m i l a r t o those between s o c i a l and identified  by T i n t o  academic i n t e g r a t i o n  (1975) i n h i s model o f a t t r i t i o n .  i s v e r y c l e a r i s t h a t the r e l a t i v e importance  of  What  variables  i n an i n t e r a c t i o n a l model o f a t t r i t i o n i s e n t i r e l y dependent on the p a r t i c u l a r student p o p u l a t i o n and  e x p e r i e n c e as b e i n g  and what they  perceive  important t o t h e i r p e r s i s t e n c e .  example, u s i n g the Bean and Metzner model, i f a d u l t  For  distance  l e a r n e r s see t h e i r s t u d i e s as b e i n g u s e f u l , have f a m i l y supp o r t and  academic c a p a b i l i t y ,  they  will  despite  i s o l a t i o n from the i n s t i t u t i o n .  probably  persist  On the o t h e r hand,  they p r o b a b l y w i l l not p e r s i s t i f , i n a d d i t i o n t o b e i n g l a t e d , any  o f the f i r s t t h r e e c o n d i t i o n s i s not met.  the Bean and Metzner model may point i n developing  Hence,  prove t o be a u s e f u l s t a r t i n g  a model o f a t t r i t i o n and  tegies for adult distance learners. information  iso-  retention  stra-  What i s needed i s  more  about what these p a r t i c u l a r s t u d e n t s see as con-  t r i b u t i n g t o t h e i r p e r s i s t e n c e o r withdrawal.  45 Other models o f a t t r i t i o n al.  (1980) a r e d i s c u s s e d b r i e f l y  recognized tested  i n the  to the  extent  I n 1973, which  with  circumstances  If  their  likely. to  Alfred  attrition  tified  52  As et  their  vocational  factors  proposed  types  used t o t e s t  a  ity a  the  social  of  attrition  attainment.  student,  In study  s o c i e t y and  e x p e c t a t i o n s might or might not were  met,  persistence interaction  involved i n withdrawal  two  be was  theory  a c o m p l e x m o d e l i n w h i c h he  iden-  decisions.  attrition,  Lenning  other well v a l i d a t e d psychologi-  w h i c h m i g h t be  that Holland's  applied  to  attri-  (1966,1973) t h e o r y  and  h i s measurement i n s t r u m e n t ,  person/institutional  Finally,  Lenning  f i t  h i s or her  could of  of  be  per-  applicabil-  of c o g n i t i v e dissonance  i n d i v i d u a l ' s p e r c e p t i o n s and  e n v i r o n m e n t and  theory  et a l . discussed the  p e r s o n - e n v i r o n m e n t model o f a t t r i t i o n . the  been  depending upon m i t i g a t i n g —  o f F e s t i n g e r ' s (1962) t h e o r y  with  have  c h o i c e , w h i c h d e s c r i b e d s i x b a s i c p e r s o n a l i t y and  environmental  sistence.  theory  w e l l as d e s c r i b i n g models o f  They  to  T i n t o models.  (1974) a p p l i e d s y m b o l i c  t h e o r i e s of behaviour  tion.  and,  expectations  a l . (1980) s u g g e s t e d  cal  not  et  widely  were s e e n t o e n t e r p o s t - s e c o n d a r y  i n developing  primary  Lenning  These a r e not  appear  from t h r e e sources —  by  e x p e c t a t i o n s and  expectations  institution  met.  and  o f t h e Spady and  student  students  certain  here.  Flannery described a  considered  t h i s model,  the  literature  described  to  This theory dealt  knowledge o f s e l f ,  experiences.  I f there  the was  46 a p e r c e i v e d dissonance would  seek  among t h e  to lessen i t .  t i o n , Lenning dissonance  the  individual  In applying the theory t o a t t r i -  e t a l . suggested between  elements,  their  that  students  perceived  experiencing  needs  and  the  i n s t i t u t i o n ' s a b i l i t y t o meet them would be l i k e l y t o remedy the  s i t u a t i o n by dropping out.  Each s i t u a t i o n would d i f f e r  depending upon t h e nature o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l and t h e i n s t i t u tion. There have been develop on an  some  attempts  by  researchers  to  a t h e o r y o f a t t r i t i o n and a r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g y based isolated  specifically  variable. to  distance  Two  such  education  Thompson (1984) proposed an a t t r i t i o n style/institutional  fit.  models are  which  apply  reported  here.  theory  Specifically,  of  cognitive  he suggested  that  f i e l d - d e p e n d e n t l e a r n e r s , because o f t h e i r g r e a t e r need f o r structure  and support, were n o t w e l l s u i t e d t o t h e indepen-  dent study r e q u i r e d o f d i s t a n c e l e a r n e r s . mended  other students.  more  suited  education.  to  distance  academic  staff  F i e l d - i n d e p e n d e n t l e a r n e r s , because o f  t h e i r tendency t o be  drop-out  recom-  t h a t f i e l d - d e p e n d e n t d i s t a n c e l e a r n e r s might b e n e f i t  from i n c r e a s e d o p p o r t u n i t y f o r c o n t a c t w i t h and  Thompson  autonomous,  should  Thompson  be  ideally  concluded  that  s h o u l d be i n v e s t i g a t e d u s i n g models which r e f l e c t e d  "aptitude-treatment  interactions"  Snow (Thompson, 1984, p. 291).  proposed by Cronbach and  47  D i S i l v e s t r o and Markowitz (1982) used the theory  of  expectancy  m o t i v a t i o n t o propose the use of b e h a v i o r a l con-  t r a c t s t o improve completion r a t e s i n correspondence Their  idea  was  t h a t , i f the g o a l and path t o the g o a l were  c l e a r t o the student, then s u c c e s s f u l the  likely  outcome.  t h e i r theory that likely  to  complete result  have  the a  completion  would  be  They concluded from the t e s t study o f contract  students  were  much  more  prompt s t a r t but were no more l i k e l y t o  than t h e i r c o u n t e r p a r t s w i t h speaks  study.  to  the inadequacy  and s t r a t e g i e s i n d e a l i n g  with  a  no  contracts.  This  of s i n g l e - f a c t o r t h e o r i e s complex  issue  such  as  reviews  of  the  attrition.  Retention Strategies A number o f r e s e a r c h literature  have proposed  studies  and  retention strategies.  The  follow-  i n g i s a summary of these based on authors reviewed  for this  chapter. Recruitment/Information Recruitment programs s h o u l d p r o v i d e a c c u r a t e mation  about  courses,  programs  p r o s p e c t i v e s t u d e n t s t o make sound Zahn  (cited  over  advertising  "attracting  by  Rekkedal, or  thereby  1981)  advertising s t u d e n t s who  and  infor-  i n s t i t u t i o n s to help  decisions  and  choices.  p o i n t e d out the dangers i n in  a  misleading  are unable t o p r o f i t  way, from  48 the i n s t r u c t i o n or students c o u r s e i s not  intended  who  are  seeking  to provide",  (p.  knowledge  the  16).  Admissions P o l i c i e s Although some r e s e a r c h e r s have  recommended  admissions standards as a method of l o w e r i n g authors agreed t h a t t h i s was Rekkedal  (1981)  pointed  not  an  raising  a t t r i t i o n , most  acceptable  solution.  out q u i t e a c c u r a t e l y t h a t , i n the  l o n g run, t h i s o n l y l e s s e n s  accessibility  and  widens  the  e x i s t i n g e d u c a t i o n a l gaps w i t h i n s o c i e t y . O r i e n t a t i o n Programs More comprehensive, have  thorough  orientation  been recommended f a i r l y c o n s i s t e n t l y i n the  (Pantages and stated  Creedon, 1978;  purpose  Lenning  et  al.,  programs literature  1980).  o f these i s t o h e l p i n t e g r a t e students  The into  the i n s t i t u t i o n a l environment. Assessment and  Counselling  Recommendations f o r assessment and vices ing, study  counselling  i n c l u d e pre-enrolment c o u n s e l l i n g and identifying skills  interviews.  'high r i s k ' students,  assistance, (Rounds, 1984;  n i n g e t a l . , 1980;  ser-  academic a d v i s -  career  counselling,  remediation  services,  and  exit  Pantages and  Creedon, 1978;  Len-  Woodley and P a r l e t t ,  1983).  49 Student/Faculty Interactions Better training which  incorporate  programs  counselling  number o f authors  (Rounds,  1982).  frequently  Another  increase the  opportunity  o u t s i d e o f t h e classroom  f o r faculty skills  1984;  1981;  recommendation  f o r faculty/student (Lenning e t a l . ,  tutors  were suggested by a  Rekkedal,  made  and  Sweet, was  to  interaction  1980).  Summary: R e t e n t i o n S t r a t e g i e s The most f r e q u e n t l y made s u g g e s t i o n s w i t h r e g a r d retention  have t o do w i t h support s e r v i c e s .  very l i t t l e  to  Unfortunately,  i n t h e way o f e v a l u a t i v e r e s e a r c h  is  available  t o a t t e s t t o t h e e f f e c t i v e n e s s o f these programs i n l o w e r i n g attrition. of  What may be concluded i s t h a t  attrition  are required  different  models  f o r d i f f e r e n t types o f student  b o d i e s and i n s t i t u t i o n s , and, hence, no one s e t o f r e t e n t i o n strategies w i l l f i t a l l situations. Research Method The r e s e a r c h method used f o r t h i s study because  i t is a  technique  designed  was  to i l l i c i t  peoples'  e x p e r i e n c e s which s i g n i f i c a n t l y c o n t r i b u t e  to  outcome.  (Flanagan, 1954)  was  The  originally  pilot  C r i t i c a l I n c i d e n t Technique developed  performance  to  identify  a  chosen  specified  characteristics  of  through d i r e c t o b s e r v a t i o n o f behaviour.  During t h e 1950's, i t was employed f o r a number o f p e r s o n n e l  50 studies  t o do w i t h performance e v a l u a t i o n ,  frequently its  but was  f o r a number o f y e a r s a f t e r t h a t e r a .  effectiveness  been d i s c o v e r e d ,  as  and  a research  not  used  Recently,  method i n c o u n s e l l i n g  a number of s t u d i e s  have  has  employed  it  (Woolsey, 1986). As incident his  a q u a l i t a t i v e method technique  o r her  data  any  values  subjective  the  reality.  of  inquiry,  the  individual's description This  does  not  render  Andersson and  Nilsson  (1964),  e x t e n s i v e review, concluded t h a t the c r i t i c a l both r e l i a b l e and  information.  the  They s t a t e d :  incident  v a l i d as a method o f "The  material  in  an  tech-  collecting  c o l l e c t e d seems t o  r e p r e s e n t v e r y w e l l the behaviour u n i t s t h a t the method be expected t o p r o v i d e . " The it  is  strong  (p.  may  402).  c r i t i c i s m s of a t t r i t i o n research  l a c k i n g i n t h e o r e t i c a l c o n c e p t u a l models and  are  that  that i t  i s l a r g e l y d e s c r i p t i v e o r c o r r e l a t i o n a l w i t h the emphasis identifying  r e l a t i o n s h i p s between student and  c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s and 1980;  Bean  and  of researchers 1984;  drop-out  ( T i n t o , 1975;  Metzner, 1985). (Terenzini  Bartels,  the g r e a t e r their  of  l e s s r e l i a b l e o r v a l i d than t h a t c o l l e c t e d through  q u a n t i t a t i v e methods.  nique was  critical  198_;  and  At the  institutional  Lenning  et  al.,  same time, a number  Pascarella,  Kennedy and  on  1980;  Powell, 1976)  Rounds,  have s t a t e d  importance of student e x p e r i e n c e s i n r e l a t i o n t o  background  characteristics,  and  the need t o e x p l o r e  these experiences further i n d e f i n i n g s i g n i f i c a n t f a c t o r s i n  51 d e v e l o p i n g models o f a t t r i t i o n  for distance  education.  Woolsey (1986) d i s c u s s e d the u s e f u l n e s s o f the c r i t ical  incident  technique  to  foundational  work, n o t i n g t h a t " C r i t i c a l i n c i d e n t  and  studies  exploratory  are  l a r l y u s e f u l because they generate both e x p l o r a t o r y t i o n and t h e o r y or model b u i l d i n g . " (p. 252). exploratory  technique  observations  from students,  to  persistence  identified. develop  a  The model  of  a  which  facilitates  By  particuinformausing  gathering  an  direct  the i n c i d e n t s which a r e c r i t i c a l  p a r t i c u l a r student p o p u l a t i o n can  f a c t o r s which emerge can then  be  used  be to  of a t t r i t i o n and r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s f o r  t h a t p o p u l a t i o n which can be t e s t e d and  evaluated.  52 CHAPTER I I I  METHODOLOGY  Subject S e l e c t i o n Forty students e n r o l l e d i n t h e i r Athabasca courses, courses  University (five  were  students  chosen from  each  random  course from  course).  courses  selected  at the  and  six-credit  eight  studies  institution.  p r o v i d e a good r e p r e s e n t a t i o n from a  v a r i e t y o f d i s c i p l i n e s , and i n c l u d e d both t h r e e - c r e d i t year)  at  eight  The  were s e l e c t e d from both l i b e r a l and a p p l i e d  a f t e r d i s c u s s i o n s w i t h academic s t a f f The  at  first  (full  year) c o u r s e s .  (half  I t would have  been d e s i r a b l e t o i n c l u d e more s e n i o r l e v e l courses b u t s t u dent  numbers were n o t l a r g e enough i n a g i v e n month t o draw  a sample (Athabasca  University  t h e same  start  has  continuous  Students  with  course).  The courses chosen were as f o l l o w s :  enrolment.  date were chosen from  each  French 103: Ensemble: French f o r Beginners (6 c r e d i t s ) E n g l i s h 210: L i t e r a r y Forms and Techniques (6 c r e d i t s ) Psychology 206: I n t r o d u c t o r y Psychology (6 c r e d i t s ) Geology 231: Understanding t h e E a r t h (3 c r e d i t s ) Computing S c i e n c e 203: I n t r o d u c t o r y BASIC Programming (3 credits) Communications 229: I n t r o d u c t o r y I n t e r p e r s o n a l Communicat i o n s (3 c r e d i t s ) A c c o u n t i n g 253: I n t r o d u c t o r y Financial Accounting (3 credits) L e g a l R e l a t i o n s 369: Commercial Law (3 c r e d i t s )  53 Computer p r i n t o u t s o f t h e student I.D. all  students  with  the  same  start  numbers  for  date i n f o u r o f these  courses were p u l l e d from t h e student r e c o r d system, and then five  I.D. numbers were drawn a t random from a l l o f t h e I.D.  numbers i n each course.  T h i s p r o c e s s was c a r r i e d  out  soon  a f t e r t h e chosen s t a r t date without r e g a r d f o r t h e s t u d e n t s ' p r o g r e s s i n t h e course, t h e i r factors.  Approximately  the  selections  or  any  courses.  was planned  The  time  of  lapse  i n order t o f a c i l i t a t e  s t a g g e r i n g t h e i n t e r v i e w s over a two month p e r i o d . student  other  a month l a t e r , t h e same p r o c e s s was  f o l l o w e d f o r t h e remaining f o u r between  demographics,  Only one  t h e 40 subsequently d e c l i n e d t o be i n t e r v i e w e d .  The o r i g i n a l p r o c e s s , u s i n g t h e remaining I.D.  numbers  for  t h a t course was employed t o s e l e c t an a l t e r n a t e . D e s c r i p t i o n o f Subj e c t s F o l l o w i n g t h e i n t e r v i e w s , t h e demographics o f t h e 40 students  were  obtained  from  the  student  r e c o r d system.  Although t h e s t u d e n t s had been chosen through simple selection,  and t h e sample was r e l a t i v e l y s m a l l , t h e i r demo-  g r a p h i c s matched those o f t h e t o t a l the  University  S i x t y per cent age  age  of  33.5 y e a r s . grounds.  random  in  a  number  student  population  o f important ways  of  (Table I ) .  (24) o f t h e sample were female, and t h e a v e r t h e students a t t h e time o f t h e i n t e r v i e w s was  They came from a v a r i e t y o f Six  had  educational  a t l e a s t one u n i v e r s i t y degree;  taken some u n i v e r s i t y c o u r s e s ; seven  had  secondary  back-  t e n had school  54 diplomas;  and  F i v e students The  five  had  completed  d i d not report t h e i r  students  were  some secondary s c h o o l . educational  a l s o from a v a r i e t y o f geographic l o c a -  t i o n s , m o s t l y i n A l b e r t a and  British  urban  Their motivations  settings  than r u r a l .  w i t h AU v a r i e d from s p e c i f i c c a r e e r particular  background.  knowledge o r s k i l l ,  Columbia,  reasons  more  from  f o r studying  to  gaining  a  e a r n i n g a degree, o r g e n e r a l  interest. F i f t e e n o f t h e 40 their  courses.  students  successfully  completed  T h i s c o n s t i t u t e s a completion r a t e o f 37.5%  i f those who f o r m a l l y withdrew w i t h i n 3 0 days  are  included  i n t h e c a l c u l a t i o n , and a completion r a t e o f 43% i f they a r e not  included.  Of t h e 25 students  who d i d n o t complete t h e i r  courses,  o n l y 5 chose t o withdraw f o r m a l l y w i t h i n t h e f i r s t  30 days.  The remainder were "withdrawn without  the  university  when  credit"  t h e i r c o n t r a c t time e x p i r e d .  shows how t h e s e s t a t i s t i c s  compare  p o p u l a t i o n a t Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y .  to  the  total  by  Table 1 student  TABLE I Comparison  o f C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f Sample S u b j e c t s w i t h of T o t a l Student P o p u l a t i o n  Characteristics  Geographic  location:  Sex:  % o f Sample (1984-85) 63 37 70 18  63 37 75 12  12  13  male female  40 60  39 61  some h i g h s c h o o l high school graduate some u n i v e r s i t y u n i v e r s i t y degree c o l l e g e / n u r s i n g diploma vocational/technical school other  12.5 17.5 27.5 15 10  10 20 25 14 10  5 12.5  10 11  l e s s t h a n 25 25-34 35-44 45-54 g r e a t e r t h a n 55 n o t known  10 55 20 5 7.5 2.5  24 44 24 6 2  Age:  (1)  i n Course:  Includes f a i l u r e s  % of Population (1984-85**)  urban rural Alberta B.C. other provinces and t e r r i t o r i e s  E d u c a t i o n Background:  Persistence  those  C o m p l e t e r (1) W i t h d r a w n - no c r e d i t as w e l l  as s u c c e s s f u l  43* (2) 57*  44** 56**  completions.  (2) E i t h e r d i d n o t s t a r t w o r k i n g o n t h e c o u r s e b e f o r e c o m p l e t i o n b u t d i d n o t f o r m a l l y withdraw.  or  stopped  working  * T h e s e f i g u r e s a r e b a s e d on c a l c u l a t i o n s w h i c h do n o t i n c l u d e t h e five s t u d e n t s who c h o s e t o w i t h d r a w f o r m a l l y w i t h i n 30 d a y s . This i s t h e way i n w h i c h c o m p l e t i o n r a t e s a r e now c a l c u l a t e d a t AU. ** C o m p l e t i o n r a t e s a r e f o r 1983-84, t h e l a t e s t are p o p u l a t i o n data.  date  f o r which  there  56  I n i t i a l Contact  Process  L e t t e r s of i n i t i a l c o n t a c t mailed  to  made t o  Appendix  questions,  request and  participation  in  s e t i n t e r v i e w times.  the  were  ducted by telephone, and t h a t they would be audiotaped.  At  time,  approximately  rules  of  30 minutes,  intercon-  same  take  the  would be  the  would  study,  S u b j e c t s were  informed d u r i n g the i n i t i a l telephone c a l l t h a t views  I)  the s u b j e c t s , and f o l l o w up telephone c a l l s were  personally  answer  (see  confidentiality,  and  t h e non-  p r e j u d i c i a l nature o f p a r t i c i p a t i o n o r n o n - p a r t i c i p a t i o n was stressed.  If  the  one d i d not and was random  mailed.  s e t , and a The  i n t e r v i e w was  The  r e p l a c e d w i t h another student chosen  from the same c o u r s e ) , an appointment f o r the  view was  course  s u b j e c t agreed t o be i n t e r v i e w e d , (only  consent  consent  form  form  (see  once  again  inter-  II)  was  s t r e s s e d t h a t the  s t r i c t l y c o n f i d e n t i a l , and had no  bearing  on  results.  Interview The C r i t i c a l I n c i d e n t Technique  best  Appendix  at  interview  was  in  the  method f o r s o l i c i t i n g c o n c r e t e i n c i d e n t s i n  which something h i n d e r e d or f a c i l i t a t e d the sistence  s e l e c t e d as  t h e i r courses.  students'  per-  Students were i n t e r v i e w e d 8 t o  10 weeks a f t e r t h e i r o f f i c i a l s t a r t d a t e s . what e a r l i e r than o r i g i n a l l y proposed  This  was  some-  f o r t h e study, and  on the a d v i c e o f academics and t u t o r s a t  Athabasca  was  Univer-  57 sity.  The  i d e a was  t o ensure t h a t s t u d e n t s had  sufficient  time t o have some e x p e r i e n c e w i t h t h e i r c o u r s e s , but not  so  much time t h a t they had a l r e a d y 'mentally', i f not f o r m a l l y , dropped teria  out. of  Care was  "qualified  taken i n t h i s r e g a r d t o meet the observer"  which  Flanagan,  (1954, p.  334-35), p o i n t s out i s v e r y important i n o b t a i n i n g data  using  the C r i t i c a l I n c i d e n t i n t e r v i e w .  n i n g of each i n t e r v i e w , a second check was petence  suggested  such  A t the b e g i n -  made on the  schedule  course  com-  as:  the  p r o v i d e d w i t h the course m a t e r i a l s .  cases, s t u d e n t s were a b l e t o do t h i s , comments  ask-  against  "drastically  behind",  as  ahead", "have made s e v e r a l attempts  In  evidenced  by  "on schedule  and  working hard", "behind by about two assignments", bit  accurate  o f the student t o e v a l u a t e t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e by  i n g them t o r a t e t h e i r p r o g r e s s i n the  all  cri-  "a  little  t o s t a r t but am  get-  t i n g nowhere", and "behind schedule and have not touched  the  course f o r a week". The telephone was tion  for  the  chosen as the medium of communica-  i n t e r v i e w because Athabasca  students l i v e i n  a l l p a r t s o f Canada, and the telephone i s the u s u a l mode communication  between  them and the i n s t i t u t i o n .  of  U s i n g the  t e l e p h o n e a l s o p r e c l u d e d h a v i n g t o choose s t u d e n t s who  were  g e o g r a p h i c a l l y c l o s e t o the r e s e a r c h e r . The were  i n t e r v i e w s were a l l conducted by the author,  c a r r i e d out i n a pre-determined  format.  and  The i n t e r v i e w  began w i t h an i n t r o d u c t i o n t o the i n t e r v i e w e r , a  review  of  58  the purpose o f the study, and assurances about the c o n f i d e n t i a l i t y of any  i n f o r m a t i o n c o l l e c t e d o r accessed as a r e s u l t  of  The  the study.  standard preamble f o l l o w s :  T h i s i s Jane B r i n d l e y from Student Services at Athabasca University. We arranged t h i s time f o r an i n t e r v i e w . Is this still a l r i g h t w i t h you? J u s t i n case you have f o r g o t t e n , I am trying to find out more about what h e l p s and h i n d e r s a student i n completing a distance e d u c a t i o n course. I hope t h a t t h i s information w i l l a s s i s t i n planning and d e v e l o p i n g b e t t e r support s e r v i c e s . You were chosen t o be i n t e r v i e w e d because t h i s i s your f i r s t course w i t h Athabasca, and i t i s now weeks s i n c e your start date. No c o n s i d e r a t i o n has been g i v e n t o your progress i n the course. Your responses t o my q u e s t i o n s w i l l be v e r y h e l p f u l no matter where you are w i t h the course r i g h t now — even i f you have not s t a r t e d working on i t . A l l i n f o r m a t i o n which you provide w i l l be kept anonymously. Your responses w i l l be compiled w i t h those of o t h e r s t u d e n t s b e i n g i n t e r v i e w e d , and the i n f o r m a t i o n w i l l be analyzed as a whole. No r e f e r e n c e s w i l l be made t o your name or t h a t of any o t h e r student. Do you have any q u e s t i o n s o r comments b e f o r e we begin? Once the student was taken  i n the predetermined  ready, the i n t e r v i e w was  under-  format, u s i n g f a i r l y s t r u c t u r e d ,  but open ended q u e s t i o n s as f o l l o w s : From t a l k i n g t o o t h e r s t u d e n t s , I find everyone has certain s a t i s f a c t i o n s and dissatisfactions i n taking a distance e d u c a t i o n course. I would l i k e t o hear about your p e r s o n a l e x p e r i e n c e . In particular, I am i n t e r e s t e d i n f i n d i n g out what has helped you t o o r kept you back from working on your Athabasca course. I would l i k e you to t r y to remember specific times when something happened which perhaps made a d i f f e r e n c e — a  59 thought, a f e e l i n g , an a c t i o n , an observ a t i o n , whatever — which helped you o r b l o c k e d you from s t a r t i n g o r s t a y i n g w i t h your c o u r s e . Think about whether these i n c i d e n t s helped you o r h i n d e r e d you so much t h a t i t changed your behaviour o r thinking. As you t h i n k o f these times, perhaps you c o u l d j o t down a key word f o r each one. When you a r e ready, we w i l l s t a r t w i t h t h e most r e c e n t one Okay, now b e f o r e we s t a r t , p l e a s e t e l l me i n your own words what you t h i n k I have asked you t o do so t h a t we can be sure t h a t we understand each o t h e r Now, let's start w i t h t h e most r e c e n t t h i n g t h a t you can remember. Don't worry about how you answer o r whether you t h i n k you are r e p e a t i n g y o u r s e l f . Anything w i l l be helpful. I ' l l s t a r t by a s k i n g you some q u e s t i o n s : D i d t h i s i n c i d e n t change your behaviour or thinking about the course?.... D e s c r i b e what happened?.... What l e a d up t o t h i s ? . . . . When d i d i t happen?.... Why was t h i s such a h e l p ( o r setback)?.... As t h e s u b j e c t f i n i s h e d  describing  each  incident,  the i n t e r v i e w e r used p a r a p h r a s i n g t o ensure accuracy, and t o e l i c i t any o t h e r d e t a i l s .  The i n t e r v i e w c o n t i n u e d u n t i l  no  f u r t h e r i n c i d e n t s were forthcoming. R e c o r d i n g and S o r t i n g o f Data All each  of the interviews  were  Each was then  t h e tapes f o r accuracy and completeness.  i n c i d e n t s was then s e p a r a t e l y t r a n s c r i b e d index  As  well,  o f t h e i n c i d e n t s was r e c o r d e d i n w r i t i n g by t h e i n t e r -  viewer w h i l e t h e i n t e r v i e w proceeded. with  audiotaped.  card  reported i t . incidents,  with  t h e I.D.  number  Two c o l o u r s were used, and  one f o r h i n d e r i n g .  onto  checked  Each o f t h e a  coloured  o f t h e student who had one  for facilitating  The i n c i d e n t cards were  60 then s o r t e d many times by t h e i n t e r v i e w e r common  meaning  categories. of  until  Following  categories,  the  they  consistently  the interviewer's cards  into  groups formed  initial  with basic  formation  were coded, mixed t o g e t h e r , and  then s o r t e d by two independent r a t e r s t o check t h e r e l i a b i l i t y of the categories.  61 CHAPTER IV  RESULTS  The  40 s t u d e n t s i n the study r e p o r t e d a t o t a l o f 2 65  incidents,  113  The average  number o f i n c i d e n t s  6.6.  student  One  facilitating  p r o g r e s s w h i l e two  and  reported  reported  students c o u l d i d e n t i f y  The  fewest  r e p o r t e d was  2, w h i l e the most  incidents was  number o f i n c i d e n t s r e p o r t e d was  c o u r s e s , and 25 108  40  students,  (54%) h i n d e r i n g .  (59.2%) o f the t o t a l 265 and  94  (60%)  p l e t e r s made up 37.5% the  incidents.),  IV.)  one  12.  The  most  common  completed  their  15 completers  i n c i d e n t s , 50  student  (46%)  reported  facilitat-  The non-completers r e p o r t e d 63  Although  (40%) the  two  total  groups,  157  facilitating number of (completers  consistent with t h e i r s i z e reported  ( i e . com40.75%  of  were n o t i c e a b l e d i f f e r e n c e s w i t h i n  p a r t i c u l a r c a t e g o r i e s of i n c i d e n t s . p a r i s o n o f completers  facilitating  any  o f the group and  there  was  that  The  i n c i d e n t s r e p o r t e d by each o f t h e and non-completers) was  no  (37.5%)  incidents,  hindering.  student  6.  15  (62.5%) d i d not.  (40.75%) o f the t o t a l 265  i n g and 58  per  t h a t n o t h i n g had h i n d e r e d h i s  incidents.  Of the  152 h i n d e r i n g i n c i d e n t s .  (see  and non-completers,  section  on  com-  and T a b l e s I I I and  62 Description of Basic The meaning  265 i n c i d e n t s were s o r t e d i n t o groups o f  until  13 b a s i c c a t e g o r i e s emerged.  are b i p o l a r , having and  Categories  facilitating  Only one category,  R e c e i v e d , had o n l y f a c i l i t a t i n g the  exception  hindering  (1)  The c a t e g o r i e s  t h e p o t e n t i a l t o i n c l u d e both incidents.  of  #9,  examples  incidents of  hindering #9 - Marks  reported.  facilitating  (H) i n c i d e n t s a r e g i v e n f o r each  common  With (F)  and  category.  Student I n t e r a c t i o n w i t h t h e I n s t i t u t i o n T h i s category tional  contact  excludes t h e student's  instruc-  ( i e : with the tutor) but includes a l l  o t h e r c o n t a c t by telephone, m a i l / p r i n t , o r i n - p e r s o n .  F.  When she r e c e i v e d m a i l from AU, she felt cared about, "not j u s t a cog i n a wheel". I t i n s p i r e d h e r t o work.  F.  Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y Magazine gave him a boost; he suddenly d i d n o t f e e l so i s o l a t e d .  H.  She requested the course in December, and d i d n o t r e c e i v e i t u n t i l February. Her m o t i v a t i o n was less.  H.  When she e n r o l l e d , she had heard that t h e r e would be workshops, b u t no one c o n t a c t e d h e r t o t e l l h e r where o r when. She thought t h a t t h i s was poor o r g a n i z a t i o n .  63 (2)  Personalized Instructional  Support  P e r s o n a l i z e d i n s t r u c t i o n a l support i s g i v e n addition  to  the  l e a r n i n g package and i s u s u a l l y p r o -  v i d e d by t h e t u t o r and/or course c o o r d i n a t o r phone.  It  includes  i n c l u d i n g feedback to  (3)  in  instruction  on assignments,  on  by  course  guidance  telecontent  i n approach  l e a r n i n g , and encouragement.  F.  She t a l k e d t o h e r t u t o r who was very supportive. He r e f e r r e d t o her e x t e n s i v e b u s i n e s s experience as evidence o f h e r c a p a b i l i t y .  H.  When she c a l l e d h e r t u t o r f o r the first time, he d i d n o t seem r e c e p tive or enthusiastic. She thought, "I'm on my own".  H.  He d i s c o v e r e d t h a t i t was d i f f i c u l t to g e t i n touch w i t h t h e t u t o r . The telephone was always busy.  D i s c o v e r y about t h e Course/Support  Materials/Approach  T h i s c a t e g o r y i n c l u d e s i n c i d e n t s where students discovered to  something  about t h e course, t h e i r approach  i t , o r support m a t e r i a l s which made a d i f f e r e n c e  them.  F.  She d i s c o v e r e d t h a t were v e r y h e l p f u l g e s t e d approach.  t h e workbooks i n g i v i n g sug-  F.  He d i s c o v e r e d he c o u l d g e t s u p p l e mentary m a t e r i a l s (tapes) from t h e library. He f e l t encouraged and  to  64  began t o work more q u i c k l y .  (4)  H.  When he saw the t o p i c s f o r the r e s e a r c h paper, he f e l t he c o u l d not do i t because of h i s own lack of background and r e s o u r c e s i n the community.  H.  She d i s c o v e r e d she would need a tape r e c o r d e r and she d i d not have one.  Pre-Course The  Preparation/Prior Expectations i n c i d e n t s i n t h i s category e i t h e r  happened  b e f o r e the student s t a r t e d the course or are r e l a t e d t o e x p e c t a t i o n s h e l d b e f o r e the course began.  F.  She saw a counsellor before she started her first course. He h e l p e d her t o focus her g o a l s i n s t u d y i n g and gave her encouragement which made her feel anxious to start.  F.  She attended a study skills workshop b e f o r e she started her course. I t made her aware of many p i t f a l l s and h e l p e d her t o p r e p a r e .  H.  When she f i r s t opened the package, she f e l t b a f f l e d and overwhelmed by the amount. She realized i t was serious. I t had been so easy t o register — "like o r d e r i n g somet h i n g from Sears".  H.  Even b e f o r e she r e c e i v e d her course package, she had doubts about her capability. She thought the course would be d i f f i c u l t and she knew she was weak i n Math.  65 (5)  R e c e i v e d Encouragement/Support from Source  Outside  of  the U n i v e r s i t y Encouragement, support,  and  instruction  were  g i v e n by f a m i l y , f r i e n d s , and c o l l e a g u e s o u t s i d e of the University.  (6)  F.  Her husband helped her by asking s p e c i f i c content q u e s t i o n s . Teachi n g him helped her t o l e a r n .  F.  A c o l l e a g u e a t work helped him the programming e x e r c i s e .  H.  Her husband q u e s t i o n e d the v a l u e o f her b e i n g i n the course, e s p e c i a l l y i n the evening when "time was taken from him".  H.  She f e l t d i s c o u r a g e d when a friend who was a l s o doing a home study course f i n i s h e d because they were g o i n g t o work t o g e t h e r .  D e a d l i n e s and  with  Schedules  This category includes i n c i d e n t s r e s u l t i n g  from  d e a d l i n e s and schedules imposed by s t u d e n t s , t h e i r  cir-  cumstances, o r the  institution.  She ordered a l l t h r e e exams a t once so t h a t she would have v e r y s t r i c t deadlines. J u s t b e f o r e the seminar, he lots o f time on the course to prepare f o r i t .  spent trying  She felt p r e s s u r e d by the time limit (one month) f o r withdrawal.  66  She f e l t i t was n o t enough time make a d e c i s i o n . H.  (7)  to  He was v e r y busy a t work and d e c i d e d t o s e t t h e course a s i d e f o r a month. There were immediate d e a d l i n e s a t work b u t none i n h i s course.  Personal R e a l i z a t i o n These  are  incidents  when  students  realized  something about themselves such as t h e i r a b i l i t y ,  their  p r o g r e s s i n t h e course, t h e i r approach t o l e a r n i n g , and f e e l i n g s about t h e c o u r s e .  (8)  F.  A f t e r she completed t h e f i r s t programming e x e r c i s e , she had a f e e l ing o f accomplishment. She felt smarter — l i k e she had an edge.  F.  When he compared h i s work on t h e course t o p a s t e x p e r i e n c e s where he had been s u c c e s s f u l , he f e l t a l i t tle ashamed and d e c i d e d t h a t he c o u l d do i t .  H.  She f e l t she had n e g l e c t e d t h e course f o r t o o l o n g and t h a t t h e r e was no hope.  H.  The n o v e l t y wore o f f a f t e r s i x to eight weeks. His enthusiasm dropped and i t f e l t l i k e a p a i n t o s i t down and work on t h e c o u r s e .  Thoughts about Longer Term Goals These about  how  are  the  incidents  course  where  related  to  students  thought  t h e i r l o n g e r term  67  g o a l s , u s u a l l y c a r e e r and e d u c a t i o n a l .  (9)  F.  She f e l t an i n t e r n a l pressure. Time was p a s s i n g and she d i d not y e t have a degree. She wanted t h i s very badly.  F.  When he thought about h i s l o n g term c a r e e r g o a l , he f e l t l i k e c o n t i n u ing.  H.  He took some v o c a t i o n a l t e s t i n g which showed t h a t he might have chosen t h e wrong f i e l d . He felt v e r y d i s c o u r a g e d about h i s c o u r s e .  H.  He was t a k i n g t h e course as a f i r s t s t e p toward a c a r e e r change. When he found out how much e d u c a t i o n was r e q u i r e d t o reach h i s g o a l , he f e l t he c o u l d never do i t .  Marks Received These received  in  incidents  are  ones  where  in  this  negative  Although  no  group r e p o r t e d h i n d e r i n g i n c i d e n t s ,  s t u d e n t s i n circumstances o t h e r than reported  marks  t h e course had a d i r e c t e f f e c t on t h e way  the student f e l t about doing t h e course. students  the  or  hindering  this  effects  study from  received.  F.  She r e c e i v e d a v e r y h i g h mark on the first exam and f e l t a c e r t a i n amount o f s a t i s f a c t i o n .  F.  He g o t t h e r e s u l t s from half-way exams and knew he was on t h e r i g h t track. I t made a r e a l d i f f e r e n c e .  have marks  68 (10)  Change i n T i m e A v a i l a b l e / C i r c u m s t a n c e s This  i s the largest  includes a l l  those  i n c i d e n t s where s t u d e n t s r e p o r t t h a t s o m e t h i n g i n  their  l i f e changed  amount o f t i m e  relative,  Course  which  spent  t h i n g s as i l l n e s s ,  (11)  c a t e g o r y and  season  made  on t h e i r  a  difference  course.  to the  I t includes  v a c a t i o n , work c h a n g e s , d e a t h  such of  a  c h a n g e s , a n d move o f r e s i d e n c e .  F.  A f t e r she f i n i s h e d work f o r the summer, s h e h a d more t i m e , a n d h a s s p e n t more t i m e o n h e r c o u r s e .  F.  She f i n i s h e d a l o t o f exams a n d papers i n h e r campus c o u r s e s . She f e l t r e l i e v e d a n d r e a d y t o work o n h e r AU c o u r s e .  H.  T h e r e was a d e a t h i n the family. It kept h e r away f r o m h e r c o u r s e f o r two weeks.  H.  T h i n g s were n o t g o i n g w e l l a t work. She f e l t s h e h a d t o g e t away. She went t o V a n c o u v e r f o r two weeks a n d d i d n o t work o n t h e c o u r s e .  Content This category  students the course  F.  directly  includes  attributed  those  incidents  which  t o t h e subject matter o f  as opposed t o t h e d e s i g n .  When h e f i r s t o p e n e d t h e package, h i s i n i t i a l i m p r e s s i o n was t h a t t h e c o u r s e would be q u i t e interesting. He started reading the textbook r i g h t away.  69  F.  Once she s a t down and worked on t h e course, she found i t interesting and e n j o y a b l e .  H.  She was r e a d i n g a n o v e l which she didn't like. She f e l t disinterested. I t was d i f f i c u l t t o make h e r s e l f work — t o d e l v e deeply enough.  H.  When she f i r s t looked a t the course, she thought she "wasn't g e t t i n g i t because i t seemed t o o simple".  (12) Course Design T h i s c a t e g o r y has t o do w i t h t h e d e s i g n o f t h e learning  package:  the  m a t e r i a l s , examinations,  instructions  given,  and g e n e r a l l a y o u t .  F.  He l i k e d t h e course design. It told him what t o l o o k f o r and gave him a sense o f b e i n g on t h e r i g h t track.  F.  Having a student manual h e l p e d h e r . I t g o t h e r back on t h e t r a c k w i t h a suggested schedule when she g o t behind.  H.  Her f i r s t exam was distressing because t h e s t r u c t u r e was d i f f e r e n t than what she had expected from doing previous quizzes.  H.  The student manual r e f e r r e d to a different k i n d o f computer than his. F i g u r i n g out t h e correspondi n g i n f o r m a t i o n f o r a home computer was d i s c o u r a g i n g and f r u s t r a t i n g .  support  70  (13) P r a c t i c a l A p p l i c a t i o n o f L e a r n i n g T h i s c a t e g o r y i n c l u d e s i n c i d e n t s where students reported  being  experience. they  saw  able  to  relate  I t f a c i l i t a t e d them this  t h e course t o t h e i r i n their  course i f  as b e i n g h e l p f u l , and h i n d e r e d them i f  they saw i t as b e i n g redundant.  F.  When he s t a r t e d , he f e l t t h e course was e n j o y a b l e because he was f a m i l i a r w i t h t h e content and c o u l d see practical applications.  F.  She spoke t o h e r b r o t h e r about h e r course. He t o l d h e r he thought t h e content was very relevant to current practise.  H.  When she f i r s t opened t h e package, she c o u l d see i t was redundant t o p a s t e d u c a t i o n and e x p e r i e n c e . She felt as though she d i d n o t want t o bother g e t t i n g s t a r t e d .  R e l i a b i l i t y of the Basic Categories Two d i f f e r e n t r a t e r s , one male and one female, used  to  determine  the r e l i a b i l i t y  were  of the basic categories.  The male i s an a d m i n i s t r a t o r a t Athabasca  U n i v e r s i t y , and i s  f a m i l i a r w i t h d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n methods, and t h e terms used for  the categories.  Education  and  He has a d o c t o r a l degree i n Comparative  i s 44  years  of  age. The female r a t e r i s  employed f u l l - t i m e i n an u n r e l a t e d  field,  secondary  years  education,  r e s i d e n t s o f Edmonton.  and  i s 59  has  some  o f age.  post-  Both a r e  71  A sample o f 52 i n c i d e n t s , 4 from each c a t e g o r y , were selected scores  f o r the raters to sort. of  Incidents standing  94%  (first  rater)  were m i s c a t e g o r i z e d of  incidents  the  category  completely,  or  They achieved and  92%  (second  not  difference  of  reading  the  opinion.  The  i n t e r r a t e r r e l i a b i l i t y o f over 90% on both t r i a l s strong r e l i a b i l i t y of the b a s i c Basic Categories The  represents  categories.  P a r t i c i p a t i o n Rate  p a r t i c i p a t i o n rate i n d i c a t e s the strength of the  c a t e g o r i e s by showing t h e extent  t o which d i f f e r e n t p a r t i c i -  pants i n t h e study r e p o r t e d t h e same k i n d hindering  rater).  due, e i t h e r t o l a c k o f under-  description, a  reliability  of  facilitating  participation  rate  incidents  each c a t e g o r y .  in  by  t h e i r goals.  percentage  of  of  incidents  as  T a b l e I I shows t h e students  reporting  As w e l l , t h e a c t u a l number o f  i n c i d e n t s which t h e percentages r e p r e s e n t  a r e shown.  72 TABLE I I B a s i c C a t e g o r i e s P a r t i c i p a t i o n Rate CATEGORY  % o f Students Reporting Incidents i n each c a t e g o r y  1.  Student I n t e r a c t i o n with the I n s t i t u t e  2.  Personalized  Instructional  Support 3.  D i s c o v e r y about t h e Course  4.  Pre-Course P r e p a r a t i o n / P r i o r Expectations Encouragement/Support from  5.  Outside the U n i v e r s i t y 6.  D e a d l i n e s and Schedules  7.  Personal Realization  8.  Thoughts about Longer Term Goals  9.  # of Incidents F a c i l i - Hindertating ing  20%  6  4  50%  15  12  43%  9  18  35%  5  13  43%  20  2  25%  10  3  63%  16  21  10%  2  3  20%  9  0  80%  4  52  23%  7  5  38%  5  15  20%  5  4  Marks R e c e i v e d  10. Change i n Time A v a i l a b l e /Circumstances 11. Course Content 12. Course Design  13. P r a c t i c a l A p p l i c a t i o n o f Learning Comparison o f Completers and Non-Completers T a b l e I I I shows a comparison o f p a r t i c i p a t i o n between  completers  and  For b o t h groups, t h e r e i s  non-completers at  least  one  rates  f o r each c a t e g o r y . subject  in  each  73 category. groups'  There  noticeable  participation  categories. of  are  rates  in  differences seven  of  between the  the  thirteen  The p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e s a r e p a r t l y a r e f l e c t i o n  t h e r e l a t i v e importance a t t a c h e d t o each c a t e g o r y and f o r  these  reasons,  it  is  important t o compare p e r s i s t e r s and  non-completers on t h i s dimension. T a b l e IV compares completers and another  dimension.  It  In  are  noticeable  for  the  two  d i f f e r e n c e s i n only four categories.  the  non-completer  differently  non-completers  Of p a r t i c u l a r  to  these i n c i d e n t s .  i s Category 10 - Change i n Time A v a i l a b l e o r Throughout  distance  1983).  than  the  interest  Circumstances.  e d u c a t i o n l i t e r a t u r e , t h i s i s c i t e d as  most o f t e n p r o v i d e d reason  Parlett,  which  back, a l s o h i n d e r e d t h e completer.  A p p a r e n t l y , t h e completers responded  the  groups.  g e n e r a l , i t can be s a i d t h a t the k i n d o f i n c i d e n t s  held  on  shows t h e r a t i o o f f a c i l i t a t i n g t o  h i n d e r i n g i n c i d e n t s i n each c a t e g o r y There  non-completers  for  drop-out  (Woodley  and  T h i s study shows t h a t p e r s i s t e r s e x p e r i e n c e  j u s t as many i n s t a n c e s o f t h i s type o f h i n d r a n c e .  74 TABLE I I I Comparison o f P a r t i c i p a t i o n Rates i n C a t e g o r i e s Between C o m p l e t e r s and N o n - C o m p l e t e r s Category  *1.  C o m p l e t e r s (15=38%) % of completers ( o u t o f 15) reporting incidents  Student I n t e r a c t i o n the I n s t i t u t i o n  2.  Personalized Support  Non-Completers (25=62%) % o f non-completers ( o u t o f 25) reporting incidents  with 6%  (1)  28%  (7)  Instructional 47%  (7)  52%  (13)  *3 .  D i s c o v e r y about the  53%  (8)  36%  (9)  *4.  Pre-Course P r e p a r a t i o n / P r i o r Expectations 27%  (4)  40%  (10)  Encouragement/Support from Outside the University  60%  (9)  32%  (8)  *6.  D e a d l i n e s and  40%  (6)  16%  (4)  *7.  Personal  53%  (8)  68%  (17)  6%  (1)  12%  (3)  33%  (5)  12%  (3)  87%  (13)  76%  (19)  Content  20%  (3)  24%  (6)  Design  60%  (9)  24%  (6)  20%  (3)  20%  (5)  *5.  8.  Schedules  Realization  Thoughts About Term G o a l s  *9.  Course  Longer  Marks R e c e i v e d  10.  Change i n Time Circumstances  11. C o u r s e *12.  Course  Available/  13 . P r a c t i c a l A p p l i c a t i o n Learning  of  * C a t e g o r i e s where t h e r e a r e n o t i c e a b l e d i f f e r e n c e s t h e two g r o u p s ' p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e s .  between  75 TABLE IV Comparison o f R a t i o s Between F a c i l i t a t i n g and Incidents i n Categories f o r Completers and Non-Completers  Number o f I n c i d e n t s Number o f I n c i d e n t s Reported by Reported by Completers Non-Completers FacilitaHindering F a c i l i t a Hindering ting ting  Category  1. 2. *3. *4. 5.  Hindering  Student I n t e r a c t i o n with the I n s t i t u t i o n  0  Personalized Instruct i o n a l Support  5  D i s c o v e r y about the Course  7  12  Pre-Course P r e p a r a t i o n / P r i o r Expectations  2  10  Encouragement/Support from O u t s i d e the University  10  10  1  10  1  D e a d l i n e s and Schedules  7  1  3  2  7.  Personal R e a l i z a t i o n  6  7  10  14  8.  Thoughts About Longer Term Goals  0  1  2  2  Marks Received  5  0  4  0  10. Change i n Time A v a i l able/Circumstances  2  23  2  29  11. Course Content  2  1  5  4  2  10  3  5  58  63  94  *6.  9.  *12.  Course Design  13. P r a c t i c a l A p p l i c a t i o n of Learning TOTALS  2 50  * C a t e g o r i e s where t h e r e are n o t i c e a b l e d i f f e r e n c e s between completers and non-completers w i t h r e g a r d t o the r a t i o between h i n d e r i n g and f a c i l i t a t i n g i n c i d e n t s .  76 CHAPTER V  DISCUSSION  Statement o f R e s u l t s The  f i n d i n g s o f the study  q u e s t i o n s posed. tify or  significant facilitated  Similarities and the  1) The s t u d e n t s  their  Factors i d e n t i f i e d in  their  significant  impact  distance  education  p r o b a b l y be a t t r i b u t e d t o t h e n a t u r e emphasis  gress  i n their  Rather  than  completely  courses,  the  s t u d y was  the r e l a t i v e  to  and t o formu-  of the interview  away f r o m  to rationalize  to relate their  which  the students'  pro-  experiences.  a chosen  behaviour,  experiences.  successful i n producing  significance  identify  t h e i r p e r s i s t e n c e can  and p l a c e d i t on t h e i r  b e i n g asked  t h e y were s i m p l y a s k e d  per-  students,  i n t e r v i e w e d were a b l e t o  experiences which a f f e c t e d  the  on  research.  a l l students  took  completers  by s t u d e n t s i n  and e v a l u a t i n g r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s ,  That  way,  between  2)  can c o n t r i b u t e t o t h e development o f  for  future a t t r i t i o n  hindered  i n distance education.  significant  o r withdrawal  a model o f a t t r i t i o n  lating  progress  3)  research  s a m p l e d were a b l e t o i d e n -  a n d d i f f e r e n c e s were f o u n d  study as b e i n g  planning  the three  concrete experiences which e i t h e r  non-completers.  sistence  address  In t h i s  data that  t o s t u d e n t s o f some f a c t o r s  shows which  77 influence  drop-out  education Table  and  (Table I I ) .  persistence  decisions i n distance  The p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e s  I I i n d i c a t e the s t r e n g t h o f the c a t e g o r i e s by  the e x t e n t t o which reported  the  different  between  participants  in  As w e l l , d i f f e r e n c e s  and  in  showing  the  same k i n d o f i n c i d e n t as h i n d e r i n g or  t a t i n g t h e i r goals.  study facili-  similarities  completers and non-completers emerged, both i n p a r -  t i c i p a t i o n r a t e s i n v a r i o u s c a t e g o r i e s and facilitating categories  to  hindering  (Table I I I and  IV).  incidents  their respective size the  group  and  i n the  ratio  within  particular  groups was  r e l a t i v e to  ( f o r example, completers made up reported  of  Although the t o t a l number o f  i n c i d e n t s r e p o r t e d by each o f the two  of  reported  37.5%  40.75% of the i n c i d e n t s ) , the  non-completers r e p o r t e d a h i g h e r o v e r a l l r a t i o o f  hindering  to  t h a t both  facilitating  incidents.  It  is  noteworthy  groups r e p o r t e d more h i n d e r i n g i n c i d e n t s ones.  This  finding  probably  reflects  study a t a d i s t a n c e f o r a d u l t p a r t - t i m e Differences categories  and  than  facilitating  the d i f f i c u l t y  of  students.  similarities  within  particular  are addressed below along w i t h o t h e r major f i n d -  ings.  Change i n Time A v a i l a b l e o r Circumstances By f a r the s t r o n g e s t category was Available  or  Circumstances',  r e p o r t e d i n c i d e n t s (Table I I ) .  in  which  In t o t a l ,  'Change  in  80%  students  of  56 i n c i d e n t s  Time  were  78 reported,  52 o f which were h i n d e r i n g  (Table I I ) .  This  i n g i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h Bean and Metzner's  (1985)  attrition  of  which  emphasized  the  environment on a d u l t p a r t - t i m e  impact  students.  s i s t e n t w i t h the study by Rekkedal  model  the  It  is  (1981) who  find-  external also  con-  concluded  that  the most s i g n i f i c a n t f a c t o r s i n drop-out from d i s t a n c e cation  were  not  inherent  i n the study method, but  edurather  were the same f a c t o r s which a f f e c t a l l a d u l t p a r t - t i m e dents,  namely,  and unforeseen The incidents  competing demands f o r t h e i r time and changes i n t h e i r  highest (52  to  ratio 4)  Available/Circumstances  stuenergy  circumstances.  of  was  of  hindering  to  r e p o r t e d i n the  Category'  (Table  facilitating  'Change i n Time  II).  Both  com-  p l e t e r s and non-completers had h i g h p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e s , and  76%  cant  r e s p e c t i v e l y (Table I I I ) .  that  Throughout in  the  as the non-completers  distance  circumstances  f o r drop-out. notion,  education  (Table I V ) .  literature,  a  reason  While the f i n d i n g s of t h i s study support  this  they a l s o show t h a t the k i n d o f i n c i d e n t which h e l d  completers  assist  interacts  with  completers.  Apparently,  responded d i f f e r e n t l y t o the i n c i d e n t s .  i n t e r a c t i o n a l model would  signifi-  i s the most o f t e n p r o v i d e d  non-completers back a l s o a f f e c t e d the  is  the p e r s i s t e r s r e p o r t e d almost as many h i n d e r i n g  i n c i d e n t s i n t h i s category  change  However, i t  87%  in  of  attrition  examining other  how  variables,  for  distance  a change i n such  as  An  education  circumstances  the  perceived  79 utility  o f t h e course and academic a b i l i t y , t o produce p e r -  s i s t e n c e o r a withdrawal d e c i s i o n .  Personal R e a l i z a t i o n The rate  c a t e g o r y w i t h t h e second  (63% o f  Realization', aware  of  students  reported  reflecting  something  p e r s i s t e n c e , such  participation  i n c i d e n t s ) was 'Personal  incidents  about  as  highest  when  students  became  themselves which a f f e c t e d  suddenly  feeling  capable  of  their study  (Table I I ) . Awareness o r p e r s o n a l r e a l i z a t i o n s a r e n o t cally  referred  ment i s . berg,  t o i n the l i t e r a t u r e , but personal  Lenz and S c h a e v i t z  (cited i n Greenfeig  have  Gold-  neglected  and  Metzner  F o l l o w i n g from t h i s ,  (1985) d i s c u s s e d how t h e a d u l t student's  i n t e l l e c t u a l development through t h e i r course buted  and  own g o a l s and devoted most o f t h e i r e n e r g i e s t o h e l p -  i n g o t h e r s a t t a i n t h e i r g o a l s " (p.81). Bean  develop-  1984) t a l k e d about a d u l t s t u d e n t s ' "... renewed s e a r c h  f o r i d e n t i t y , because many r e t u r n i n g a d u l t s their  specifi-  t o t h e i r p e r s o n a l development.  work  contri-  They went on t o p o i n t  out t h a t both Spady and T i n t o "... concluded  that  students'  p e r c e p t i o n s o f t h e i r i n t e l l e c t u a l development was a p e r s o n a l development f a c t o r t h a t was p o s i t i v e l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h persistence  i n college"  (p. 523), and t h a t t h i s c o n c l u s i o n  was supported by s e v e r a l s t u d i e s o f o t h e r r e s e a r c h e r s . research  i s required  to  their  explore  the  kinds  More  of personal  80 r e a l i z a t i o n s which a f f e c t p e r s i s t e n c e , and t o t e s t t h e r e l i a b i l i t y o f t h i s c a t e g o r y as a s t r o n g f a c t o r .  In t h i s  p e r s o n a l r e a l i z a t i o n was found t o be a important In t h e 'Personal R e a l i z a t i o n ' category,  factor. there  not s i g n i f i c a n t l y more h i n d e r i n g i n c i d e n t s  (21) than  tating  II).  incidents  completers  (16)  reported  (Table  (68%) than completers  t h i s c a t e g o r y but t h e r a t i o  study,  were  facili-  More  non-  (53%) r e p o r t e d i n c i d e n t s i n  of  facilitating  to  hindering  i n c i d e n t s was about t h e same f o r both groups (Tables I I I and IV).  I t may be t h a t t h e non-completers a r e l e s s  aware  than  persisters  personally  on e n t r y , and hence e x p e r i e n c e more  p e r s o n a l r e a l i z a t i o n s as a r e s u l t o f attempting s t u d i e s , but further  research  is  required  before  conclusions  can be  reached.  Personalized Instructional  Support  F i f t y p e r cent o f students r e p o r t e d i n c i d e n t s i n t h e category  'Personalized  Instructional  This category includes incidents  Support'  related  support which s t u d e n t s r e c e i v e from t h e i r The s t r e n g t h o f findings  all  category  the  academic  tutors.  is  consistent  with  t h a t t u t o r i n t e r a c t i o n i s important t o p e r s i s t e n c e  i n distance education 1983;  the  to  (Table I I ) .  Sweet,  1982).  interaction i s  (Rekkedal,  1981; Woodley and  Parlett,  However, i t should be noted t h a t not  perceived  as  positive.  Although  the  81 study  showed t h a t i n s t r u c t i o n a l support from the t u t o r i s a  powerful  factor i n persistence,  it  also  showed  that  the  e f f e c t can be n e g a t i v e as o f t e n as i t i s p o s i t i v e .  About an  equal percentage  reported  incidents  of completers  and  non-completers  i n t h i s category, and both groups r e p o r t e d almost  as many h i n d e r i n g i n c i d e n t s as f a c i l i t a t i n g IV). was  Hindering  incidents  (Tables I I I  u s u a l l y o c c u r r e d when the t u t o r  p e r c e i v e d as not c a r i n g about the student.  discussed  the  need  for  and  Sweet (1982)  i n s t r u c t o r s t o be " r e s p o n s i v e and  supportive i n t h e i r i n t e r a c t i o n s with  students".  (p.  8).  In a review o f l i t e r a t u r e on a t t r i t i o n and r e t e n t i o n i n community c o l l e g e s , Rounds (1984) c i t e d a l a r g e number o f dies  which  training Moore:  pointed  in  t o the need f o r improvement of f a c u l t y  instructional  approaches.  1984,  p.  puses  ...  8).  ... t o be academic s o c i a l  many  of  p r e p a r e d s t u d e n t s may  the  more  from  traditional,  have the r i g h t  quality  and  an  academically  education,  T h i s type of  education  institutional  it  atti-  universities  credibility  the o t h e r hand, n o n - t r a d i t i o n a l s t u d e n t s  p a r t - t i m e , i n f u l l - t i m e employment) openness and  (Rounds,  one hand, t r a d i t i o n a l academics are r e c r u i t e d t o  academic on  to  (p. 10).  tude i s a concern f o r open d i s t a n c e on  work"  c o n t i n u e t o f e e l t h a t , w h i l e under-  s h o u l d not be i n t h e i r c o u r s e s "  while,  quoted  She concluded t h a t "... t h e r e remain on cam-  o r i e n t e d i n s t r u c t o r s who  enhance  She  "Too many t e a c h e r s c o n s i d e r the t a s k of t e a c h i n g the  h i g h r i s k student  where,  stu-  flexibility.  are  attracted  (older, by  the  82 D i s c o v e r y About t h e Course The c a t e g o r y ,  'Discovery about  the  Course'  had  a  p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e o f 43% (Table I I ) , and i n c l u d e d i n c i d e n t s when t h e student found out something about t h e course he  or  she had not known p r e v i o u s l y .  o c c u r r e d when t h e students r e c e i v e d subsequent  to  registering.  Of  The i n c i d e n t s u s u a l l y  their  the  completers  had  A higher  (53%) than non-completers  i n c i d e n t s i n t h i s category completers  course  almost  (Table I I I ) .  an  equal  of  category  hindering  to  However, w h i l e  number  facilitating  (Table I V ) . I n o t h e r  percentage about t h e  of  drop-outs  course  which  words,  than  percentage  (36%) r e p o r t e d the  o f h i n d e r i n g and  f a c i l i t a t i n g i n c i d e n t s , t h e non-completers had ratio  packages  t h e t o t a l o f 27 i n c i d e n t s  r e p o r t e d , 18 were h i n d e r i n g (Table I I ) . of  which  a  12  incidents although  to  in a  2  this  smaller  completers made d i s c o v e r i e s  affected  their  persistence,  the  d i s c o v e r i e s which they d i d make were a h i n d r a n c e t o them. Although a t t r i t i o n l i t e r a t u r e does not discuss  how  discoveries  about  a f f e c t p e r s i s t e n c e , some o f t h e retention  strategies  are  entry  specifically  courses o r t h e i n s t i t u t i o n most  commonly  recommended  counselling  and academic  a d v i s i n g , and o r i e n t a t i o n programs which "present a meaningful  and  al.,  1980, p. 97).  to  avoid  accurate  p i c t u r e of the i n s t i t u t i o n " .  (Lenning e t  These s t r a t e g i e s a r e o b v i o u s l y  'surprises'  needed t o see why some  f o r the  student.  students  experience  intended  More r e s e a r c h i s this  and  not  83 others.  F o r example, i t may be t h a t those s t u d e n t s w i t h no  post-secondary e x p e r i e n c e r e p o r t e d most o f t h e i n c i d e n t s  in  t h i s category.  Encouragement/Support from Outside the U n i v e r s i t y Forty-three incidents  when  per  cent  of  strength  students  reported  support (or l a c k o f i t ) from o u t s i d e of the  u n i v e r s i t y had an impact on t h e i r The  the  of  the  category  persistence  (Table I I ) .  supported Bean and Metzner  (1985) i n t h e i r premise t h a t e x t e r n a l encouragement and support  were  important  to the p e r s i s t e n c e of adult part-time  students. Two important f i n d i n g s emerged about t h i s The f i r s t  category.  i s t h a t almost a l l i n c i d e n t s were f a c i l i t a t i n g  out o f 22, T a b l e I I ) .  The  second  is  that,  although  (20 the  r a t i o between f a c i l i t a t i n g and h i n d e r i n g i n c i d e n t s  (10 t o 1)  was t h e same f o r completers  the  and  non-completers,  com-  p l e t e r s r e p o r t e d a much h i g h e r percentage o f i n c i d e n t s (60%) than t h e non-completers more  support  (32%).  The  completers  from o u t s i d e the u n i v e r s i t y f o r t h e i r  t h a n d i d t h e non-completers.  I t i s not c l e a r  the  studies  whether  a c t u a l l y r e c e i v e d more support, were more s k i l l e d ing  perceived  they  i n obtain-  i t , o r were i n a b e t t e r p o s i t i o n t o r e c e i v e i t than were non-completers.  84 Course Design The next h i g h e s t p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e (38%) was category,  'Course  i n the  Design', which i n c l u d e d a l l i n c i d e n t s t o  do w i t h the course package i t s e l f :  the  support  and g e n e r a l l a y o u t (Table  II). to or  materials,  examinations,  instructions  For example, a number o f students found know  it  given,  difficult  where t o s t a r t when they opened the course package  found c e r t a i n i n s t r u c t i o n s c o n f u s i n g . Woodley  designed  and  course  Parlett  (1983)  referred  the  issue  of  the  distance  author's tendency  to  would be seen and  'judged' by c o l l e a g u e s .  incidents category  reported  'overwrite'  by  the  students  in  were h i n d e r i n g (Table I I ) .  t h a t a much h i g h e r percentage completers  (24%)  reported  the  (1982)  education  course  because  'Course  (60%) than  hindering  to  have  their  the  completers  the  incidents  did  t h e i r courses so c e r t a i n  and  (5 t o 3 ) .  having  more  course m a t e r i a l s o r t h a t they were  more adept a t r e c o g n i z i n g problems w i t h the package. rate,  non-  facilitating  T h i s may  with  Design'  i n c i d e n t s i n t h i s category,  to  20  T a b l e s I I I and IV show  (10 t o 2) compared t o the non-completers due  it  F i f t e e n of the  incidents  been  attri-  Bartels  package  o f completers  they a l s o had a h i g h e r r a t i o of  interaction  "badly  packages" (p. 6) as c o n t r i b u t i n g t o  t i o n a t The Open U n i v e r s i t y i n B r i t a i n , and addressed  to  At  any  not keep them from p e r s i s t i n g i n other  variables  must  have  been  p r e s e n t which enabled them t o c o n t i n u e d e s p i t e problems w i t h  85 the course packages. f i n d i n g s may  One  tentative  conclusion  Pre-Course The  'Pre-Course  had  a  of  thought.  Preparation/Prior Expectations Preparation/Prior  participation  i n c l u d e d i n c i d e n t s which course  these  be t h a t d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n course d e s i g n i s not  as important a f a c t o r as i s c u r r e n t l y  category  from  r a t e o f 35%  occurred  prior  Expectation*  (Table I I ) , and  to  starting  the  (such as s e e i n g a c o u n s e l l o r ) o r o c c u r r e d as a r e s u l t  expectations held before s t a r t i n g  doubting  the  one's academic a b i l i t i e s ) .  course  (such  as  T h i r t e e n out o f t h e  18  i n c i d e n t s r e p o r t e d i n t h i s c a t e g o r y were h i n d e r i n g . T h i s f i n d i n g p r o v i d e s f u r t h e r support f o r those dies  which  enrolment 1985; that  recommend  retention  strategies  support s e r v i c e s (Lenning e t  Pantages only  1980;  Rounds,  T a b l e s I I I and IV show  in  category, and  the  non-completers r e p o r t e d a much h i g h e r r a t i o of h i n d e r i n g  to  facilitating  (3  2).  pleters  reported  incidents  incidents  I t may in  completers  as p r e -  to  to  of  f  such  compared  completers  27%  and Creedon, 1978).  al.  stu-  this  40%  of  non-  (10 t o 3) than d i d the completers  be t h a t the same f a c t o r s which m o t i v a t e  com-  t h e i r courses motivate them t o seek i n f o r m a t i o n  and o t h e r types o f a s s i s t a n c e ( s k i l l s  assessment,  counsel-  l i n g , academic a d v i s i n g ) p r i o r t o s t a r t i n g t h e i r c o u r s e s , or perhaps they a r e more e x p e r i e n c e d s t u d e n t s . clear  that  t h i s c a t e g o r y of i n c i d e n t s was  However, i t  is  more s i g n i f i c a n t  86 i n a h i n d e r i n g way f o r t h e non-completers than f o r t h e  com-  pleters.  D e a d l i n e s and Schedules One q u a r t e r o f t h e students the  'Deadlines  and  Schedules'  reported  category  (Table I I ) .  c a t e g o r y i n c l u d e d i n c i d e n t s when s t u d e n t s ' affected  by  either  and/or s c h e d u l e s . and,  the  presence  incidents  o r absence o f d e a d l i n e s  the  completers  others.  IV  A  higher  shows t h a t t h e completers had a n o t i c e a b l y h i g h e r  t h e non-completers  comparative  studies  of  institutional  p r a c t i c e s i n distance education  consistently  (7 t o  1)  than  (3 t o 2 ) .  These f i n d i n g s a r e c o n s i s t e n t w i t h  1  much  (16%, T a b l e I I I ) .  r a t i o of f a c i l i t a t i n g to hindering incidents  pacing  of deadlines,  (40%) r e p o r t e d i n c i d e n t s i n  t h i s c a t e g o r y than d i d t h e non-completers Table  was  Ten o f t h e 13 i n c i d e n t s were f a c i l i t a t i n g  e i t h e r s e l f - i m p o s e d o r imposed by of  This  persistence  i n a l l cases, had t o do w i t h t h e presence  percentage  in  demonstrate  higher  the  results  of  'pacing' and ' s e l f institutions  which  completion r a t e s f o r s t u -  dents who a r e paced by i n s t i t u t i o n a l d e a d l i n e s and schedules (see, 33). which  f o r example, t h e s t u d i e s c i t e d by Coldeway, 1982a, p. A r e s e a r c h study by D i S i l v e s t r o and Markowitz reported  on  the  t r a c t s and correspondence tracts  consistently  (1982),  r e l a t i o n s h i p between l e a r n i n g  con-  study,  con-  helped  showed  that  strict  students t o g e t a prompt s t a r t  8 7  but d i d n o t i n f l u e n c e completion r a t e s .  The r e s u l t s o f t h i s  study showed t h a t t h e presence o f d e a d l i n e s were r e p o r t e d as h a v i n g a p o s i t i v e e f f e c t , but were a s i g n i f i c a n t f a c t o r o n l y for  the  completers.  I t may be t h a t t h e non-completers d i d  not know how t o schedule t h e i r s t u d i e s and use  deadlines  in  did  nothing  to  t h e same way as t h e completers d i d .  t h e most p a r t , t h e d e a d l i n e s which t h e completers  For  mentioned  were s e l f - i m p o s e d .  Course  Content  Twenty-three p e r cent o f students r e p o r t e d i n c i d e n t s in  the  'Course Content'  category  (Table I I ) . T h i s c a t e g o r y  i n c l u d e d i n c i d e n t s when students r e p o r t e d e x p e r i e n c e s t o with  the  subject  d e s i g n , and u s u a l l y Twelve seven  matter had  of to  do  t h e course as opposed t o i t s with  level  i n c i d e n t s were r e p o r t e d i n t o t a l , facilitating.  Unlike the f i n d i n g s  'Course  Design',  marked  differences  between  completers  and  non-completers.  completers  do  of  interest.  f i v e h i n d e r i n g and in were  the not  category, apparent  Although  non-  reported nine of the 1 2 i n c i d e n t s , the p a r t i c i p a -  t i o n r a t e s by students were s i m i l a r f o r both groups  (Tables  I I I and I V ) . There were no s t r o n g t r e n d s i n e i t h e r a f a c i l i t a t i n g or hindering direction. two  of  t h e non-completers,  f a c t o r which would account by  them.  Course  I t may be t h a t , f o r one  or  course content was an important f o r more i n c i d e n t s b e i n g r e p o r t e d  content,  as i t r e l a t e s t o t h e student's  88 l e v e l o f i n t e r e s t , has been mentioned as a sistence  in  distance education.  Bartels  drop-outs were l e s s s a t i s f i e d than  t o choose courses a c c o r d i n g t o t h e i r  in  with  rate  interests.  I n t e r a c t i o n w i t h the  (Table  II).  The  course  of s t u d e n t s b e i n g a b l e  Institution  There were t h r e e b a s i c c a t e g o r i e s w i t h a 20% tion  per-  (1982) noted t h a t  persisters  c o n t e n t and emphasized the importance  Student  factor  first  of t h e s e was  comple'Student  I n t e r a c t i o n w i t h the I n s t i t u t i o n ' which i n c l u d e d a l l c o n t a c t which  the  student  had w i t h the i n s t i t u t i o n by m a i l , t e l e -  phone o r i n person, w i t h the e x c e p t i o n o f received  from  the  telephone  tutor.  academic While  support  t h i s d i d not  appear t o be a s i g n i f i c a n t f a c t o r f o r completers  (only  reported  importance  an i n c i d e n t ) , i t appeared  t o t h e non-completers Out  of  the  (seven r e p o r t e d i n c i d e n t s , T a b l e I I I ) .  n i n e i n c i d e n t s r e p o r t e d by non-completers,  were f a c i l i t a t i n g but a p p a r e n t l y through  to  t o be o f some  one  course completion.  r e p o r t e d both d i r e c t e f f e c t s  not  enough  to  see  six them  I t i s o f note t h a t students  of  having  contact,  such  as  " g i v i n g them a boost", and i n d i r e c t e f f e c t s , such as g e t t i n g a bad i m p r e s s i o n o f the i n s t i t u t i o n . as  tutor  impact  contact on  can  have  persistence,  s t u d e n t / i n s t i t u t i o n contact.  both so  can  I t appears  that  a p o s i t i v e and other  just  negative  types  of  89 Marks Received The was  'Marks  second c a t e g o r y w i t h a Received'  (Table  20%  II).  participation  A l l incidents i n this  c a t e g o r y r e p o r t e d by students were f a c i l i t a t i n g but  other  students  have  rate  (Table  r e p o r t e d t o Athabasca  II)  University  c o u n s e l l o r s t h e n e g a t i v e impact o f low marks on p e r s i s t e n c e . Low  grades  as  a  negative v a r i a b l e i n persistence i s also  supported by t h e l i t e r a t u r e Parlett, than  1983).  A  higher  non-completers  category  (see, f o r example, percentage  (12%)  (Table I I I ) .  reported  Woodley  o f completers  incidents  this  The completers who r e p o r t e d i n c i d e n t s studies  r e c e i v e marks, had t h e a b i l i t y t o a t t a i n h i g h marks, and  were m o t i v a t e d by t h e i r achievement. the  (33%)  in  i n t h i s c a t e g o r y had p r o g r e s s e d f a r enough i n t h e i r to  and  non-completers  but  there  The  were  same  applies  to  fewer o f them i n t h i s  category.  P r a c t i c a l A p p l i c a t i o n of Learning The t h i r d c a t e g o r y w i t h a 20% p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e was 'Practical  Application  of  category included i n c i d e n t s relate The  the  content  of  Learning where  1  (Table  students  II).  were  their studies to their  able  This to  experience.  i n c i d e n t s were f a c i l i t a t i n g t o t h e e x t e n t t h a t  students  saw t h e i r s t u d i e s as u s e f u l f o r p r a c t i c a l a p p l i c a t i o n and/or t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e as h e l p f u l t o t h e i r almost  an  equal  number  of  studies.  facilitating  There  and  were  hindering  90 incidents to  the  (Table I I ) . The  i n c i d e n t s were viewed as h i n d e r i n g  e x t e n t t h a t t h e i r s t u d i e s were seen as redundant t o  t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e and,  hence,  emphasis  o f s t u d i e s i n the l i t e r a t u r e on a d u l t  on  utility  part-time students  of  little  use.  Given  (Bean and Metzner, 1985), i t i s  the  somewhat  s u r p r i s i n g t h a t more students d i d not i d e n t i f y t h i s  category  as a s i g n i f i c a n t f a c t o r .  category  with  'Thoughts  about  in  these  this  Longer Term Goals' might have r a i s e d  the p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e incidents  However, combining  somewhat. two  Students  described  c a t e g o r i e s d i f f e r e n t l y so they are  r e p o r t e d s e p a r a t e l y , but they both r e l a t e t o u t i l i t y d i e s as d e f i n e d by Bean and Metzner The p a r t i c i p a t i o n completers  were  Learning'  rates  and  there  of s t u -  (1985).  for  i d e n t i c a l i n the  category  the  completers  and  non-  ' P r a c t i c a l A p p l i c a t i o n of  was  no  marked  difference  between the two groups i n the r a t i o between f a c i l i t a t i n g hindering  and  incidents.  Thoughts about Longer Term Goals The l a s t and s m a l l e s t c a t e g o r y was Longer II).  Term  'Thoughts  about  G o a l s ' w i t h a p a r t i c i p a t i o n r a t e o f 10%  (Table  I t c o u l d be argued t h a t the s m a l l number  (four) r e p o r t i n g does not warrant  of  students  a separate category.  ever, t h e s e i n c i d e n t s were d e s c r i b e d d i f f e r e n t l y than in ing',  the p r e c e d i n g category, which  would  be  the  Howthose  ' P r a c t i c a l A p p l i c a t i o n o f Learnmost  closely  related  set  of  91 incidents.  These were i n c i d e n t s when s t u d e n t s r e l a t e d t h e i r  s t u d i e s t o long-term g o a l s as opposed t o immediate tion.  These  were f a c i l i t a t i n g t o t h e extent  that the stu-  dent a l r e a d y had s t r o n g commitment t o a g o a l and was  required  t o reach i t .  dent had  weak  required  t o reach t h e g o a l .  reported tating  goal  They were h i n d e r i n g  commitment  or  was  surprising reported  II).  considering to  take  As  knew  what  There were o n l y f i v e  i n the previous  that  courses  adult  was  incidents  two  facili-  category, t h i s i s  students  f o r career  what  i f the stu-  unsure  i n t h i s category, t h r e e h i n d e r i n g and (Table  applica-  are  reasons  often  (Bean and  Metzner, 1985).  Implications  f o r a Conceptual Model  I t i s c l e a r from t h e f i n d i n g s o f t h i s study, and t h e review  of  complicated  the  l i t e r a t u r e , that the a t t r i t i o n process i s a  mix o f student, i n s t i t u t i o n a l , and environmental  variables  which  interact  over  decision.  So f a r , t h e conceptual  time t o produce a drop-out model which  appears  useful  i n d e s c r i b i n g t h i s process i n the distance  context  i s t h e one developed by  s p e c i f i c a l l y f o r adult, part-time  Bean  and  commuter  education  Metzner  (1985),  students.  T h e i r model proposed t h a t withdrawal d e c i s i o n s based and  on f o u r major c a t e g o r i e s o f v a r i a b l e s :  d e f i n i n g c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the  enrolment s t a t u s , and gender;  most  student  were  1) background such  as  age,  2) academic v a r i a b l e s such as  92  study h a b i t s variables  and  such  course as  encouragement, and ical  availability;  finances,  3)  environmental  hours of employment,  family r e s p o n s i b i l i t y ;  and  4)  outside  psycholog-  v a r i a b l e s such as p e r c e i v e d u t i l i t y o f s t u d i e s ,  satis-  f a c t i o n , g o a l commitment and s t r e s s . Bean and Metzner proposed t h a t these variables  could  contribute  directly,  intention  sion.  sets  of  i n d i r e c t l y or c o u l d  i n t e r a c t t o produce outcomes o f performance an  four  (marks)  and/or  t o l e a v e which c o u l d l e a d t o a drop-out d e c i -  They d e s c r i b e d  four  ways  in  which  the  model  was  interactive. F i r s t l y , t h e r e were d i r e c t e f f e c t s between v a r i a b l e s o r between v a r i a b l e s and  outcomes, such as t h a t which a l a c k  o f c o u r s e a v a i l a b i l i t y might have on a d e c i s i o n t o drop  out.  Secondly, t h e r e were d i r e c t e f f e c t s presumed most important, such as the impact of study h a b i t s on marks. was such  provision as  f o r the p o s s i b l e e f f e c t s o f l e s s e r v a r i a b l e s  Tinto's  (1975)  L a s t l y , and p r o b a b l y  social  integration  most i m p o r t a n t l y ,  were the  i n t e r a c t i o n e f f e c t s among s e t s of v a r i a b l e s . way  T h i r d l y , there  variables. compensatory  The  simplest  t o d e f i n e these i s t o i l l u s t r a t e w i t h an example used by  Bean and Metzner.  It  has  been  shown  that  environmental  variables  are  students.  A t the same time, i t has been shown t h a t academic  variables  are an important f a c t o r i n p e r s i s t e n c e f o r almost  all  students.  an important f a c t o r i n p e r s i s t e n c e f o r a d u l t  Bean and Metzner proposed t h a t , when both  of  93 these  s e t s o f v a r i a b l e s were f a v o u r a b l e t o p e r s i s t e n c e , the  student would c o n t i n u e , and, the  students  would  most  i f both s e t s were u n f a v o u r a b l e , likely  drop  academic v a r i a b l e s were f a v o u r a b l e but  out.  However, i f  environmental  vari-  a b l e s were not, a d u l t students would s t i l l be l i k e l y t o drop out because the academic v a r i a b l e s would not compensate poor  environmental  support.  were f a v o u r a b l e environmental variables,  the  On  for  the o t h e r hand, i f t h e r e  c o n d i t i o n s but  poor  academic  a d u l t student would s t i l l be l i k e l y t o p e r -  s i s t because, f o r them, environmental  support c o u l d overcome  the academic v a r i a b l e s . It ables  i s c l e a r t h a t the content o f the  and  the  relative  importance  i n t e r a c t i o n a l model o f a t t r i t i o n i s the  particular  student  c e i v e and  experience  sistence.  The  to  the  variables  entirely  Bean  outcomes,  variin  an  dependent  on  as  being  important  to  their  f a c t o r s which were r e p o r t e d as b e i n g study  can  be  per-  critical used  to  and Metzner model t o r e f l e c t the d i s t a n c e  education context. the  of  p o p u l a t i o n , and what s t u d e n t s p e r -  p e r s i s t e n c e by students i n t h i s  modify  of  sets  The  and  f o u r major c a t e g o r i e s o f  the  variables,  i n t e r a c t i o n a l e f f e c t s o f the model  appear a p p r o p r i a t e , but some of the c o n t e x t w i t h i n the major categories under  'Academic  Metzner, to  requires  1985,  change.  Variables' p. 491).  For example, one is  'absenteeism'  sub-category (Bean  and  T h i s i s o b v i o u s l y not a p p r o p r i a t e  the d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n c o n t e x t .  94 Once t h e Bean and Metzner model for for  the distance education reliability  model  has  context,  has  been  modified  i t c o u l d then be t e s t e d  and v a l i d i t y i n t h e same way t h a t t h e  Tinto  been ( T e r e n z i n i and P a s c a r e l l a , 1980), and c o u l d  be used t o examine e m p i r i c a l l y t h e r e l a t i v e s i g n i f i c a n c e o f v a r i a b l e s which a r e a s s o c i a t e d w i t h drop-out i n t h e d i s t a n c e education  literature.  It  i s proposed t h a t t h e  variables  and  proposed  of  the  Additions deletions  have been l e f t unchanged. ness  major  categories  rationale  are  marked  a r e noted.  This recognizes the for inclusion  given  The  with  an  Some f a c t o r s appropriateby Bean and  Metzner (1985) t o t h e student p o p u l a t i o n addressed study.  of  i n t h e model c o u l d be m o d i f i e d as f o l l o w s , u s i n g  f i n d i n g s from t h i s study. asterisk  four  in  this  r a t i o n a l e f o r changes t o t h e model i s p r o v i d e d  immediately below t h e  following  summary  of  the  modified  categories.  (1)  Background and D e f i n i n g V a r i a b l e s -  age enrolment s t a t u s ( * s p e c i f y program/non-program) residence (*urban/rural) educational goals h i g h s c h o o l performance ( * i f a p p l i c a b l e ) * h i g h e s t l e v e l o f e d u c a t i o n achieved e t h n i c i t y ( d e l e t e , u n l e s s s t u d y i n g s p e c i a l groups) gender  95  (2)  Academic V a r i a b l e s -  (3)  Environmental -  (4)  study h a b i t s major c e r t a i n t y * i n f o r m a t i o n ) (intended t o address 'Pre-Course P r e p a r a t i o n / * o r i e n t a t i o n ) P r i o r E x p e c t a t i o n ' and 'Discovery about Course') academic a d v i s i n g *study s k i l l s a s s i s t a n c e *assessment (intended t o p a r t i a l l y address 'Discovery about S e l f ) *career planning * d e a d l i n e s and s c h e d u l e s / p a c i n g * p e r s o n a l i z e d i n s t r u c t i o n a l support *course content *course d e s i g n course a v a i l a b i l i t y absenteeism (delete) Variables  finances hours o f employment o u t s i d e encouragement family r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s *change i n time a v a i l a b l e / c i r c u m s t a n c e s opportunity to t r a n s f e r  P s y c h o l o g i c a l Outcomes - u t i l i t y (*includes ' P r a c t i c a l A p p l i c a t i o n ' and 'Longer Term Goals') - satisfaction - *personal r e a l i z a t i o n - g o a l commitment (*defined as importance of completing the course) - s t r e s s ( d e l e t e i n f a v o r o f more e x p l i c i t v a r i a b l e s ) The  ables',  was  f i r s t category, modified  'Background and  University  context,  (Table I ) .  enrolment  d e f i n e d as program and non-program. program  Vari-  u s i n g the i n f o r m a t i o n about d e f i n i n g  c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s o f the p o p u l a t i o n basca  Defining  In  the  Atha-  s t a t u s can be  widely  S i n c e commitment  to  a  of s t u d i e s has been seen as a f a c t o r i n p e r s i s t e n c e  96 i n the l i t e r a t u r e , t h i s  wide  definition  was  seen  as  an  important v a r i a b l e t o t e s t . Residence is  commonly  i s d e f i n e d as e i t h e r urban o r  thought  that  rural.  It  distance education students are  m a i n l y from r u r a l areas which do  not  have  a  campus-based  i n s t i t u t i o n , but, i n f a c t , over 60% o f t h e Athabasca s i t y student p o p u l a t i o n a r e from urban a r e a s .  Univer-  It is  specu-  l a t e d t h a t t h e two groups a r e d i f f e r e n t i n t h e i r m o t i v a t i o n s for  c h o o s i n g d i s t a n c e study, and i n  which  are  available  to  the  them, such as l i b r a r y  For t h i s reason, l o c a t i o n i s commonly characteristic  in  outside  institutional  resources facilities.  used  as  a  defining  analyses  of  t h e student  body, so i t i s important t o t e s t i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e  for  per-  sistence. The  Athabasca  University  open  admissions  policy  means t h a t s t u d e n t s have much more heterogeneous e d u c a t i o n a l backgrounds than a t i n s t i t u t i o n s w i t h more s p e c i f i c requirements.  Since  past  educational  achievement  e x p e r i e n c e a r e c o n s i s t e n t l y noted throughout as  being  the  and  literature  important t o p e r s i s t e n c e , t h i s c h a r a c t e r i s t i c was  added t o t h e model. because  entrance  High s c h o o l  performance  was  left  in  i t has been shown t o be an important v a r i a b l e , but  s t u d e n t s a t an open attended h i g h s c h o o l .  university  may  not  necessarily  have  97 Ethnicity characteristic  has  been  an  important  defining  o f Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y s t u d e n t s nor does i t  appear as an important literature.  never  For  s p e c i a l groups,  factor  in  t h i s reason,  the  distance  education  i t should be d e l e t e d u n l e s s  such as n a t i v e s t u d e n t s , are b e i n g s t u d i e d .  A number o f f a c t o r s have been added t o the Variables'.  These  a l l fall  s t r a t e g i e s t o be t e s t e d . that,  if  'Academic  i n t o the c a t e g o r y o f r e t e n t i o n  Bean and  Metzner  (1985)  suggest  major e f f o r t s are b e i n g made by an i n s t i t u t i o n t o  address a t t r i t i o n through p a r t i c u l a r programs, t h e s e be  added  as  v a r i a b l e s i n t h i s category.  The way  should i n which  t h e a d d i t i o n a l f a c t o r s r e f l e c t the f i n d i n g s o f t h e study addressed  more f u l l y i n the next s e c t i o n ,  is  'Implications f o r  Retention Strategies•. Change i n time a v a i l a b l e and circumstances only  factor  added  t o 'Environmental V a r i a b l e s ' .  t h e f a c t o r from t h e study which had the of  students  reporting  incidents.  highest  It  the  T h i s was  proportion  i s a l s o the f a c t o r  a f f e c t i n g p e r s i s t e n c e i n distance education o f t e n c i t e d i n the  was  which  is  most  literature.  Under ' P s y c h o l o g i c a l Outcomes', t h e r e was t i o n and two c l a r i f i c a t i o n s of d e f i n i t i o n s . i z a t i o n ' was  added because  this  was  respondents  t o the study and i t was  outcome o f t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e i n t h e i r  one  addi-  'Personal R e a l -  reported  by  63%  of  seen as a p s y c h o l o g i c a l courses  which  had  a  98  direct  impact on t h e i r p e r s i s t e n c e .  An example o f t h i s  a r e a l i z a t i o n about b e i n g capable of u n i v e r s i t y work. ity  was  redefined  t o r e f l e c t the way  of  studies  Goal commitment was one  course  and  Util-  i n which students  t h i s study d e s c r i b e d i t , which i n c l u d e d immediate application  in  practical  r e l a t i o n t o l o n g e r term g o a l s .  r e d e f i n e d as  commitment  to  completing  as opposed t o a program because t h i s more accu-  r a t e l y r e f l e c t e d the a s p i r a t i o n s and b e h a v i o u r s o f the dent  was  population.  As  well,  program/non-program was  stu-  the d e f i n i n g c h a r a c t e r s t i c of  already  i n c l u d e d i n the f i r s t  s e t of  variables. With the m o d i f i c a t i o n s d e s c r i b e d above, the Bean Metzner context  model appears a p p r o p r i a t e t o the d i s t a n c e and,  as such, can be used as  a  and  education  framework  to  more  c l e a r l y s e t out what i s a l r e a d y known about a t t r i t i o n and  as  a guide f o r future s t u d i e s .  Implications f o r Retention The  emphasis i n  prevention,  not  Strategies  attrition  prediction.  research Once  should  significant  be  on  factors  a f f e c t i n g p e r s i s t e n c e have been i d e n t i f i e d f o r a g i v e n population,  then  evaluated previous  retention  strategies  can  be  developed  as v a r i a b l e s w i t h i n a model, as d e s c r i b e d  in  and the  s e c t i o n , ' I m p l i c a t i o n s f o r Conceptual Models'. It  i s encouraging t o see from t h i s study  that  some  99 students  p e r s i s t d e s p i t e e x p e r i e n c e s which they p e r c e i v e as  negative.  I t may be t h a t  they  have  better  coping  stra-  t e g i e s , more e x p e r i e n c e and knowledge, a l e a r n i n g s t y l e more n a t u r a l l y s u i t e d t o d i s t a n c e study, and/or a h o s t characteristics  which  predispose  of  other  them toward p e r s i s t e n c e .  C l e a r l y , more i n f o r m a t i o n i s needed about p e r s i s t e r s . we  do  know  from  this  a v o i d a b l e drop-outs. developed  which  which they attrition al.  f i n d i n g i s t h a t there probably are  Hence, i f r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s can  be  change s t u d e n t s ' e x p e r i e n c e s o r t h e way i n  perceive rates  What  or  respond  to  certain  may be lowered as a r e s u l t .  experiences, As Lenning e t  (1980) s t a t e : The t a s k i s n o t t o e l i m i n a t e a t t r i t i o n , a task t h a t i s u n f e a s i b l e as w e l l as undesirable. Instead, the task i s t o assist a r e l a t i v e l y s m a l l percentage o f s t u d e n t s t o p e r s i s t . . . A s h i f t o f even a few percentage points i n retention s t a t i s t i c s could benefit i n d i v i d u a l students and have a major impact on t h e institution. (p. 29).  Recommendations f o r r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s can all  areas  o f an i n s t i t u t i o n .  affect  almost  The emphasis i n t h i s  section  w i l l be on those c o n c e r n i n g student support  services,  par-  t i c u l a r l y a d v i s i n g and c o u n s e l l i n g programs.  Recruitment  and I n f o r m a t i o n  Students need a c c u r a t e i n f o r m a t i o n on which t o their  c h o i c e o f courses, programs, and mode o f study.  base Many  s t u d e n t s i n t h i s study f e l t t h a t t h e r e was t o o much emphasis  100  in  the  information  the f l e x i b i l i t y , not  they r e c e i v e d p r i o r t o enrolment about  open admissions  and ease o f enrolment,  and  eough about the r e a l i t i e s of b e i n g a d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n  student. the  Many students were shocked by the  course  packages  to  enrolment  decision-making, more  in  not  Accurate only  can  information  provide  a  include  an  of much  programs  sound  but they a l s o b r i n g s t u d e n t s '  l i n e with r e a l i t y .  sessions  size  w h i l e o t h e r s d i d not r e a l i z e how  they would be on t h e i r own. prior  sheer  base f o r  expectations  For example, group i n f o r m a t i o n introduction  to  sample  course  materials.  O r i e n t a t i o n Programs/Assessment S e r v i c e s O r i e n t a t i o n programs are important same  reasons  as i n f o r m a t i o n programs.  f o r some  However, they  p r o v i d e t h e student w i t h an o p p o r t u n i t y t o f i n d out tion  about  institution.  themselves  as  well  as  T h i s h e l p s the student t o see how  adjustments can be made t o enhance the f i t .  should  informa-  well his  or  Sometimes,  Student  assess-  s h o u l d not be l i m i t e d t o t r a d i t i o n a l types o f a p t i t u d e  t e s t s , but s h o u l d c h a l l e n g e the i n d i v i d u a l t o factors  as  study  and l e a r n i n g s t y l e . to  the  i n f o r m a t i o n about the  h e r c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s match i n s t i t u t i o n a l demands.  ment  of  h a b i t s , reasons  such  f o r returning to school,  For example, i f an a d u l t  s c h o o l f o r s o c i a l reasons,  examine  is  returning  or t h e i r l e a r n i n g s t y l e i s one  which r e q u i r e s i n t e r a c t i o n , then d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n may  only  101  be to  a  s u i t a b l e mode o f l e a r n i n g i f they have an o p p o r t u n i t y  j o i n a study group.  which  O r i e n t a t i o n should address  ways  in  t h e student can adapt t h e i r l e a r n i n g r e s o u r c e s t o f i t  t h e i r needs.  Assessment of b a s i c s k i l l s  such  as  writing,  r e a d i n g , and mathematics enables the student t o judge h i s or her r e a d i n e s s f o r u n i v e r s i t y study take r e m e d i a l  and,  if  introduction  t h e k i n d s o f c o p i n g s k i l l s necessary t o d e a l w i t h  seen  circumstances.  schedule  to  courses.  O r i e n t a t i o n programs should i n c l u d e an to  necessary,  which  For  example,  setting  up  unfore-  a  study  a l l o w s a month leeway might enable the  dent t o cope w i t h a f a m i l y i l l n e s s .  If  possible,  stu-  orienta-  t i o n programs s h o u l d i n c l u d e s i g n i f i c a n t o t h e r s t o g i v e them an i d e a o f how  the s t u d e n t s ' r e t u r n t o  them,  they might h e l p .  and how  school  will  A l t e r n a t i v e l y , the  t i o n program can openly address the i s s u e o f  affect orienta-  enlisting  the  help of others i n pursuing educational goals.  Other C o u n s e l l i n g Programs A v a r i e t y o f o t h e r c o u n s e l l i n g programs are r e q u i r e d to  facilitate  t h e s e a r e study crisis  persistence. skills  counselling.  dents s k i l l s which  Probably the most important  assistance, Study  will  demands o f d i s t a n c e study,  help  planning,  and  s k i l l s programs can t e a c h  stu-  them  career  of  to  meet  the  special  from p r o v i d i n g an approach t o the  learning materials to teaching strategies f o r g e t t i n g family  102 support.  Career  long-term plans.  planning  g o a l s and It  may  helps students to c l a r i f y  t o s e e how  increase  their  the  study  fits  perceived  into  utility  courses  o r h e l p them t o c h o o s e a more a p p r o p r i a t e  Crisis  counselling,  strategies,  can  cumstances  such  with  help  an  emphasis  students  as m a r r i a g e  their their  of  their  direction.  on t e a c h i n g  coping  unforeseen  cir-  through  b r e a k - u p , employment  layoff  or  illness.  Staff  Development R o l e  C o u n s e l l o r s can ment  programs  quent  interaction  emphasized their  the  tutors.  training, be u s e d  with  t u t o r s and  students. to  in  training  s t a f f who in  f e e l c a r e d a b o u t and of  their  the  frestudy  supported  by  professional which c o u l d  contact  that only 20% of students with  Many s t u d e n t s h a d  the  in  the  i n s t i t u t i o n other  than  n o t had  any  o t h e r t h a n t h e p a s s i n g o f form  the m a i l .  interest  have  programs.  t u t o r c o n t a c t as b e i n g a s i g n i f i c a n t  institution  develop-  Recommendations  mentioned  through  staff  Students  C o u n s e l l o r s , because  i s significant  persistence.  the  faculty,  need  in staff  It  their  also play a role  have e x p e r t i s e i n communication s k i l l s  Other  study  with  for Counsellors  factor  their  contact with letters  T h e y were o f t e n s u r p r i s e d  shown i n them by t h e  in  and  interviewer.  and  forms  pleased  Most  the  by  often,  103  they  were  totally  unaware  C l e a r l y , the i n s t i t u t i o n approach  to students.  o f s e r v i c e s a v a i l a b l e t o them.  must  be  more  proactive  in  its  S e r v i c e s should be b e t t e r p u b l i c i z e d  and, wherever p o s s i b l e , p e r s o n a l  contact  of  a  supportive  n a t u r e s h o u l d be made w i t h s t u d e n t s . I t s h o u l d be noted t h a t t h e same which  lead  students  accessing services. to  to  withdraw  may  kinds  of  prevent  A v a r i e t y o f approaches  must  factors them from be  tried  f i n d out what s t r a t e g i e s and what modes o f d e l i v e r y work  best. Only r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s which concern s t u d e n t support  services  have  been  addressed  here.  However, i t i s  r e c o g n i z e d t h a t t h e f i n d i n g s of the study a l s o have i m p l i c a t i o n s f o r o t h e r areas such as course content, course d e s i g n , d e a d l i n e s and schedules  L i m i t a t i o n s and Future  (pacing) and modes of d e l i v e r y .  Research  The sample f o r the study was population  of  representative  of  the  Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y s t u d e n t s i n a number of  important ways (Table I ) , and t h e p o p u l a t i o n a t t h e  univer-  s i t y i s s i m i l a r t o t h a t o f a number o f o t h e r d i s t a n c e education  institutes.  eralizing  the  However, some c a u t i o n i s warranted r e s u l t s across i n s t i t u t i o n s .  t i o n a l d i f f e r e n c e s i n areas such and  intentions  of  students  as  entrance  Major  i n geninstitu-  requirements  t o t r a n s f e r or s t a y should be  104 considered. model was gle  I t should be noted t h a t the  Bean  and  developed p r i m a r i l y , but not e x c l u s i v e l y , f o r s i n -  institution application. In o r d e r t o develop the model f u r t h e r ,  needed to  Metzner  research  t o c o n f i r m o r r e j e c t f a c t o r s found t o be  p e r s i s t e n c e and t o determine t h e i r  relative  significant importance.  For example, e v a l u a t i v e r e s e a r c h i s needed t o t e s t the cacy o f the suggested r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s . is  also  required  interactional  to  understand  better  is  As  effi-  well,  and  work  to test  the  effects.  Summary All concrete  respondents were a b l e  experiences  which  difficulties  studying at a distance.  reflects  faced  by  significant  or f a c i l i t a t e d  courses.  more h i n d e r i n g experiences  t a t i n g ones, which probably possible  identify  hindered  p e r s i s t e n c e i n distance education nificantly  to  There were  r e p o r t e d than the  great  p o r t f o r the premise t h a t t h e r e are a v o i d a b l e  of  students  differences  found between completers and non-completers.  sig-  facili-  number  adult, part-time  S i m i l a r i t i e s and  their  There was  were sup-  drop-outs  in  the f i n d i n g t h a t p e r s i s t e r s o f t e n r e p o r t e d the same k i n d  and  number o f h i n d e r i n g i n c i d e n t s as d i d the non-completers.  Thirteen incidents  basic  reported.  categories The  emerged  from  the  265  c a t e g o r i e s which emerged as most  105 s i g n i f i c a n t , as i n d i c a t e d reporting  them,  cumstances',  were:  'Personal  by  the  'Change  proportion  in  Realization'  of  students  Time A v a i l a b l e o r C i r and  'Personalized  I n s t r u c t i o n a l Support *. Factors significant, population, tion  i d e n t i f i e d by s t u d e n t s i n t h e study as b e i n g  along with the d e f i n i n g c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of the were used t o modify an e x i s t i n g model o f  attri-  (Bean and Metzner, 1985) t o r e f l e c t t h e d i s t a n c e  educa-  t i o n c o n t e x t o f Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y . used  to  for future  propose  Findings  were  also  r e t e n t i o n s t r a t e g i e s and t o suggest areas  research.  106 REFERENCES Andersson, B.-E., and N i l s s o n , S.-G. 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C o r r e s p o n d e n c e e d u c a t i o n combined w i t h s y s t e m a t i c t e l e p h o n e t u t o r i n g . Malmo: Hermods, 1978.  G r e e n f e i g , B.R. and G o l d b e r g , B . J . Orienting returning adult students. I n M.L. U p c r a f t ( e d . ) , O r i e n t i n g s t u d e n t s t o c o l l e g e , New D i r e c t i o n s f o r S t u d e n t S e r v i c e s , #25. San F r a n c i s c o : J o s s e y - B a s s , 1984. H e f f e r n a n , J.M., Macy, F.U., and V i c k e r s , D.F. Educational b r o k e r i n g : A new s e r v i c e f o r a d u l t l e a r n e r s . New Y o r k : National Center f o r Educational Brokering, H o l m b e r g , B. Recent research i n t o d i s t a n c e Hagen: F e r n U n i v e r s i t a t , 1982.  1976.  education.  Kennedy, D. and P o w e l l , R. S t u d e n t p r o g r e s s and w i t h d r a w a l i n t h e open u n i v e r s i t y . T e a c h i n g a t a D i s t a n c e , 1976, 7, 61-75. L e n n i n g , O.T., B e a l , P.E., and S a u e r , K. Retention and a t t r i t i o n : E v i d e n c e f o r a c t i o n and r e s e a r c h . Boulder: National Center f o r Higher Education Management S y s t e m s , 1980. Losty,  B.P. and B r o d e r s o n , D.D. Who S u c c e e d s ? A comparison of t r a n s c r i p t s o f g r a d u a t e s and i n a c t i v e s t u d e n t s o f a n o n t r a d i t i o n a l b a c h e l o r o f a r t s program. A l t e r n a t i v e H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n : The J o u r n a l o f N o n t r a d i t i o n a l S t u d i e s , 1980, f 2 5 , 91-99.  Mclnnis-Rankin, E . and B r i n d l e y , J . Student support s e r v i c e s . I n I . M u g r i d g e and D. Kaufman ( e d s . ) , D i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n i n Canada. L o n d o n : Croom Helm, 1986. P a n t a g e s , T . J . and C r e e d o n , C F . Studies 1950-1975. Review o f E d u c a t i o n a l 48, 49-101.  of college a t t r i t i o n : Research, 1978,  P a s c a r e l l a , E.T. and T e r e n z i n i , P.T. Interaction effects S p a d y ' s and T i n t o ' s c o n c e p t u a l m o d e l s o f c o l l e g e drop-out. S o c i o l o g y o f E d u c a t i o n , 1979a, 52, 197-210.  in  P a s c a r e l l a , E.T. and T e r e n z i n i , P.T. P r e d i c t i n g freshman p e r s i s t e n c e and v o l u n t a r y d r o p o u t d e c i s i o n s f r o m a t h e o r e t i c a l model. Journal of Higher Education, 1980, 51, 60-75. P a s c a r e l l a , E.T. and T e r e n z i n i , P.T. Student-faculty informal c o n t a c t and c o l l e g e p e r s i s t e n c e : a f u r t h e r i n v e s t i g a t i o n . J o u r n a l o f E d u c a t i o n a l R e s e a r c h , 1979b, 72, 214-218.  109 Paul,  R.H. Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y . I n I . M u g r i d g e and D. ( e d s . ) , D i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n i n Canada. London: Croom Helm, 1986.  Kaufman,  P h y t h i a n , T. and C l e m e n t s , M. Dropout from t h i r d l e v e l maths c o u r s e s . Teaching at a Distance, 1982, 21, 35-45. Report  o f t h e t a s k f o r c e on m a t u r e s t u d e n t s . U n i v e r s i t y of A l b e r t a Senate, 1983.  Edmonton:  R e k k e d a l , T. Introducing the personal t u t o r / c o u n s e l l o r i n the system of d i s t a n c e education. Paper p r e s e n t e d a t the a n n u a l c o n f e r e n c e o f t h e E u r o p e a n Home S t u d y C o u n c i l , Madrid, 1981. Rounds, J . C . A t t r i t i o n and r e t e n t i o n o f community c o l l e g e s t u d e n t s : P r o b l e m s and p r o m i s i n g p r a c t i c e s . M a r y s v i l l e , C a l i f : Yuba C o l l e g e , 1984. (ERIC Document R e p r o d u c t i o n S e r v i c e No. E D 2 4 2 3 7 7 ) . Shale,  D. A t t r i t i o n : A case study. I n J . S . D a n i e l , M.A. Stroud and J.R. Thompson ( e d s . ) L e a r n i n g a t a d i s t a n c e : A w o r l d p e r s p e c t i v e . Edmonton: A t h a b a s c a University/International Council f o r Distance Education, 1982.  Smyrnew, J . C h a r a c t e r i s t i c s of Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y students. I n s t i t u t i o n a l s t u d i e s r e p o r t no. 5. Edmonton: Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y , 1983. S p a d y , W. D r o p o u t s f r o m h i g h e r e d u c a t i o n : T o w a r d an e m p i r i c a l model. I n t e r c h a n g e , 1971, 2, 38-62. Sweet, R. Distance education: the personal response. Paper presented a t the American E d u c a t i o n a l Research A s s o c i a t i o n , New Y o r k , 1982. Taaffe,  T. a n d R o c c o , T.M. Access t o higher education f o r a d u l t s . I n R.H. M i l l e r ( e d . ) , P r o v i d i n g a c c e s s f o r a d u l t s t o a l t e r n a t i v e c o l l e g e programs. New R o c h e l l e : The Scarecrow Press f o r the A l l i a n c e , 1981.  Taylor,  E. A study of a t t r i t i o n i n the Regents e x t e r n a l degree program. Research r e p o r t . Albany: I n s t i t u t i o n a l R e s e a r c h O f f i c e , R e g e n t s E x t e r n a l D e g r e e P r o g r a m , 1983.  Tele-universite. L e v o l u t i o n e t l e s c a r a c t e r i s t i q u e s de p o p u l a t i o n e t u d i a n t e . ( J u i n , 1 9 8 6 ) , 31 pp. 1  la  110 T e r e n z i n i , P.T. a n d P a s c a r e l l a , E.T. The r e l a t i o n o f students p r e c o l l e g e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s and freshman year experience t o voluntary a t t r i t i o n . Research i n H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n , 1978, 9, 347-366. 1  T e r e n z i n i , P.T. a n d P a s c a r e l l a , E.T. Toward t h e v a l i d a t i o n o f T i n t o ' s model o f c o l l e g e s t u d e n t a t t r i t i o n : A review of recent studies. Research i n Higher E d u c a t i o n , 1980, 12, 271-282. Thompson, G. The c o g n i t i v e s t y l e o f f i e l d - d e p e n d e n c e explanatory construct i n distance education. D i s t a n c e E d u c a t i o n , 1984, 5, 286-293. Tinto,  van  a s an  V. Dropout from h i g h e r e d u c a t i o n : A t h e o r e t i c a l s y n t h e s i s of recent research. Review o f E d u c a t i o n a l Research, 1975, 45, 89-125.  W i j k , T. Drop-out i n d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n : f a l l a c i e s and remedies. Unpublished paper, P r e t o r i a : U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h A f r i c a , 1983.  W o o d l e y , A. a n d P a r l e t t , M. Student drop-out. a D i s t a n c e , 1983, 24^, 2-23.  Teaching  at  W o o l s e y , L.K. The c r i t i c a l i n c i d e n t t e c h n i q u e : An i n n o v a t i v e q u a l i t a t i v e method o f r e s e a r c h . Canadian J o u r n a l o f C o u n s e l l i n g , 1986, 20, 242-254.  Ill APPENDIX I - LETTER OF INITIAL CONTACT Dear The Student S e r v i c e s u n i t i s c u r r e n t l y c o n d u c t i n g a study r e g a r d i n g completion of distance education courses. Your name was chosed a t random from a l l s t u d e n t s in their first course w i t h Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y . We are i n t e r e s t e d i n what you can t e l l us about your experience with the course r e g a r d l e s s o f your c u r r e n t s t a t u s i n i t . Someone from the Student S e r v i c e s o f f i c e w i l l give you a c a l l w i t h i n the next week t o f i n d out i f you are w i l l i n g t o p a r t i c i p a t e i n t h i s study. Appointments f o r a t e l e phone i n t e r v i e w (approximately 30 minutes i n length) w i l l be r e q u i r e d o f each p a r t i c i p a n t . Should you decide to take part i n the study, you w i l l have the r i g h t t o withdraw a t any time. Any personal information obtained during the i n t e r v i e w s w i l l be h e l d i n c o n f i d e n c e . R e s u l t s of t h e study w i l l be r e p o r t e d i n grouped form only, with no names attached to i t . I t i s our hope t h a t t h i s study w i l l g i v e us more information about what h e l p s and h i n d e r s s t u d e n t s i n comp l e t i n g d i s t a n c e e d u c a t i o n c o u r s e s . As a r e s u l t , we a n t i c i pate being a b l e t o d e s i g n more e f f e c t i v e c o u n s e l l i n g p r o grams t o a i d s t u d e n t s i n t h e i r s t u d i e s . I f you have f u r t h e r q u e s t i o n s about the project, please feel f r e e t o d i s c u s s them when we c a l l you. I f you d e c i d e d you would l i k e t o be i n v o l v e d w i t h the study, an appointment f o r an i n t e r v i e w a t a time convenient t o you w i l l be s e t . Thank you f o r your c o n s i d e r a t i o n . Sincerely,  Jane E. B r i n d l e y  112 APPENDIX I I - CONSENT FORM Consent Form f o r P a r t i c i p a t i o n i n t h e Study: "Completion and A t t r i t i o n i n D i s t a n c e  Education"  The purpose o f t h i s p r o j e c t i s t o gather i n f o r m a t i o n which w i l l be h e l p f u l i n d e s i g n i n g c o u n s e l l i n g programs f o r distance education students. Participants i n this study will be i n t e r v i e w e d once by telephone f o r approximately t h i r t y minutes. A l l i n d i v i d u a l i n t e r v i e w information will be kept c o n f i d e n t i a l . Participants names w i l l n o t be a t t a c h e d t o t h e r e p o r t e d data; i t w i l l be presented i n group format o n l y . P a r t i c i p a n t s have t h e r i g h t t o withdraw from the p r o j e c t a t any time without p r e j u d i c e t o t h e i r studies a t Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y . 1  I, p a t i n g i n t h e above  study.  , g i v e my consent  to  partici-  Name: (please p r i n t )  T h i s study i s b e i n g c a r r i e d out by t h e Student Serv i c e s U n i t a t Athabasca U n i v e r s i t y . Any f u r t h e r i n f o r m a t i o n which p a r t i c i p a n t s r e q u i r e may be o b t a i n e d by t e l e p h o n i n g the Edmonton o f f i c e a t Charges may be r e v e r s e d on long distance c a l l s .  

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