The Application of Social Presence to Improve Retention in Online Problem-Based Course
The single most important factor that contributes to retention in an asynchronous online course is student self- discipline. The author has been teaching an Engineering Economy problem-based course as both an “on-ground” (in- classroom) and as an online course and noticed very early after the course changed to an online format that the student dropout rates increased significantly. Students have stated their primary issue in the online course format was the need for self-discipline to meet the course deadlines for assignments and tests to keep from getting behind. The use of online video meetings has increased the “social presence” of students with each other along with the instructor and has had a positive impact on those students needing more social presence to bolster self-discipline. Most studies in this area of social presence involve student surveys as a measure of overall course satisfaction based on classroom collaborative learning versus online collaborative learning. This study differs in that results-based retention (or dropout) data is collected and statistically analyzed over a six-year period.