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MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching

Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2010

Online Student Success: Making a Difference

Gregory M. D. Beyrer Distance Education Coordinator Cosumnes River College Sacramento, CA 95823 USA gregory.beyrer@crc.losrios.edu


How do students prepare to succeed in an online learning environment? This research

project College project

examines the effectiveness of one answer to this question. Cosumnes River

offers a course to meet this need, examines the effect on success

Online Student Success rates for students who

(OSS). This research





comparisons are made. One is of online students to online students who have not; the other is performance of students before and after their

who have enrolled in OSS compared a comparison between the online enrollment in OSS. Historical data

(academic performance, enrollment, and demographic) were collected an online survey of students who enrolled in the class was conducted.




Results indicate a positive relationship between enrollment in OSS and success rates, both in the historical data and in comments from participants. Students who passed OSS were more successful in their online classes than students who did not enroll in OSS. In a d d i t i o n , s t u d e n t s w h o p a s s e d O S S w e r e m o r e s u c c e s s f u l i n t h e o n l i n e c l a s s e s t h e y



after taking







recommendations for future studies that could contribute to the understanding of how to increase student success in online education. These suggestions include broadening the sources of historical data to include enrollment and performance in online classes at other colleges in the same district and investigating why certain students enroll in this class. A final research suggestion is how to identify the online students who would benefit from this class and how to encourage them to take it before they risk poor performance and thereby alienate themselves from the increased access to higher education offered by online education.

Keywords: preparation for online learning, study skills


Cosumnes River College is a community college in Sacramento, California. It is part of the Los Rios Community College District and was founded in 1970. More than 12,000 students attend. Cosumnes River College has offered online classes since the fall of 2001, and the growth of online enrollment has been spectacular. During that first semester enrollment totaled 376; at the spring 2010 first census (enrollment at the fourth week of the semester) enrollment totaled 5,289. That marks a 1,307% increase in nine years. Most of the online classes are taught using eLearning, a district-wide service for integrating the Internet with instruction. During the period of this study, the learning management system at the heart of eLearning was Blackboard.

The district provides server support, and application support for faculty is provided by a distance education coordinator. This is a faculty position created to train fellow faculty how to integrate technology with their instruction. The college lacks a rigid structure for determining online course offerings, though before a course can be taught in this modality it must undergo review by the local curriculum committee. The allotment of faculty time to online teaching has heretofore been largely a matter of negotiation between individual teachers and area managers.

Typically, faculty in traditional classrooms focus on the content area of their courses and do not teach study skills (how to take notes, test taking techniques, etc.). The same can be said for online instructional faculty. The application support and training provided to instructors includes little provision for how to help students succeed in this learning modality, and that consists mostly of orienting students to the


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