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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

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School Community, Completion, and Adult Learners: Qualitative Findings From a Small, Rural Community College

Kathleen Stone (SUNY Empire State College, USA)
Session Information
October 16, 2015 - 11:45am
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Community Colleges
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere A2
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 11

This session presents research to understand how adults' experiences and perceptions of a sense of school community contribute to their ability to complete online courses.

Extended Abstract

Online courses consistently suffer from low course completion rates. We know from research that a sense of community in the online classroom is important; however, a sense of school community has not been explored as extensively. A sense of school community goes beyond a sense of community that students experience from one specific class and provides a larger sense of belonging and connection to an institution, faculty, staff, and students. Typically, online general education courses at the community college level are not offered in a cohort model. Therefore, each time a student takes an online course, there is a need to rebuild community. Having an overarching sense of school community would provide additional support for those students.

This session will present a qualitative case study of a small, rural community college, aimed at understanding how adult students' experiences and perceptions of a sense of school community contribute to their ability to complete online general education courses. The central research question was how do online students at the focus community college (FCC) describe a sense of school community when completing online courses? Two subquestions included: (1) In what ways do online students perceive a sense of school community as being present at FCC? (2) What aspects of a sense of school community do students at FCC perceive as contributing to successful completion of online courses? Semi-structured interviews resulted in four major themes emerging from the study.

This research study resulted in specific recommendations to help the community college increase a sense of school community and the online course completion rates for adult learners. This session will be interactive to encourage engagement and transfer of learning. The first portion will cover the background on the problem, the second portion will discuss the results of the research study, and the last portion will discuss the recommended solutions. During each portion, participants will have time to consider and discuss their unique setting in relation to the case study presented and ask questions

Lead Presenter

Kathleen is Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design at SUNY Empire State College. She provides leadership for the Curriculum and Instructional Design (CID) team. The CID team supports faculty in the development, design, and revision of all online courses within the curriculum (500 undergraduate courses taught in multiple sections, 5 terms per year) and supports instructor development and training of over 500 instructors. Her interests include online course completion, accessibility of online courses, metaliteracy, digital citizenship, and open educational resources.