This article reports two studies undertaken at The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, a vocational distance education (DE) provider, where course completion rates have risen to match those of face-to-face technical institutions. A simple model of student engagement is presented, which reflects the triality between the student, institution, and external environment. The first study investigated institutional factors, from the perspectives of staff who have contributed toward this improvement; the second study focused on student perceptions of factors that fostered engagement. Both staff and students considered helpful tutors and clear learning materials essential; as is student motivation, which is enhanced if courses are relevant and achievable. Reasons for non-completion included inappropriate course advice and competing life demands. Staff participants believed student engagement can improve with appropriate interventions, while students tended to situate the lack of engagement within themselves. Findings emphasize the triadic nature of factors relating to student engagement in DE.
Thistoll, T., & Yates, A. (2016). Improving course completions in distance education: An institutional case study. Distance Education, 37(2), 180–195. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2016.1184398