Student attrition in higher education: 'What was that you said?': Ambiguities arising from varied contexts and definitions in distance and open learning.

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Authors
Dreaver, G.
Issue Date
2003
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Working Papers
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Student attrition , Persistence in learning , Higher education , Open and distance learning , Retention and completion in education
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Abstract
Attrition rates in the higher education and distance/open learning modes have come under growing scrutiny over the last two decades. One of the drivers has been political, with the widespread adoption of New Managerialist policies in the public service throughout much of the Western world. The market focus of the competitive model brings a concentration on measurable outcomes and the use of benchmarking. The ensuing government linkage of funding to students' progress rates has focused attention on the issue. In New Zealand, the Ministry of Education made its first move in relation to private training providers (PTEs), followed by clear signals to all tertiary providers that the same regime will apply. The attrition levels of distance learners have generally been acknowledged as being higher than those of ?conventional? face-to-face higher educational institutions, although some distance education/open learning courses sometimes have higher rates of retention than contact courses. Attrition, its shape and its management, has long been considered a quality issue in higher education generally and in distance and open learning in particular. Any discussion of results from the many qualitative and quantitative studies has to take place with shared understandings of the language used and of the contexts within which it is used. This paper is therefore structured in two parts. The first part describes the communities within which discussion of issues facing distance and open learning are constructed and variously defined. The second part explores the ways in which student attrition is investigated within those communities of interest.
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Dreaver, G. (2003). Student attrition in higher education: 'What was that you said?': Ambiguities arising from varied contexts and definitions in distance and open learning (Working Papers No. 5-03). Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.
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