Success Factors Among Community College Students in an Online Learning Environment
Little is known about student success in online learning environments, especially how the predisposing characteristics that the learner brings to the learning environment may differentially affect student outcomes. This study explored the question of whether a student's "readiness" to be a self-directed learner is a predictor of student success in an online community college curriculum. The specific goal of this investigation was to determine whether there was a significant relationship between self-directed learning readiness-as measured by Guglielmino's (1977) Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS)- and student success-as measured by course completion, grade point average (GPA) and student satisfaction, the latter assessed by student responses to an opinion poll.
The subjects of this study were community college students in the state of Washington, enrolled in one or more transfer-level online courses delivered via WashingtonONLINE (WAOL) during fall quarter 1999. Students who voluntarily chose to respond to two elective surveys comprised the study sample.
A correlational research design was used to test the explanatory power of self-directed learning readiness and to describe the relationships between variables. Since this study was designed to test hypothesized relationships, the resulting correlation coefficients were interpreted in terms of their statistical significance. The expected outcome of this study was to confirm or disconfirm a statistically significant relationship between self-directed learning readiness and student success in an online community college curriculum. The findings of this study failed to achieve this outcome due to (1) the lack of statistical reliability of the SDLRS among the subject population; (2) the resulting lack of validity of the SDLRS among the study sample; (3) a nonresponse effect; and (4) a self-selection effect.
The unanticipated outcome of this study was evidence that student perception of student/instructor interactions is a single variable predictor of student success among community college students in an online learning environment.
Recommendations for further study include Web-specific research methodologies that address the potentially deleterious effects of nonresponse and self-selection in cyber-research environments and continued exploration of the multiple facets of student success in asynchronous learning domains.