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How Does eLearning Affect University Retention Rates_ (1)
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How Does eLearning Affect University Retention Rates?

Aug 13, 2019

A recent study by Arizona State University (ASU) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that online learning helps increase one of the most important markers for all institutions of higher learning: retention.

Researchers looked at six colleges and universities across the country (three community colleges and 3 public research universities, all with an enrollment of 20,000+ students). They found that graduation and retention rates for students taking at least some online courses were anywhere from 9% to 21% higher when compared to students taking only traditional in-person courses.

Those are significant numbers at a time when persistence and retention rates have been holding steady at around 73% and 61% respectively for the past decade.

It’s clear that online learning in the higher education space is having an impact on persistence and retention rates, but why is that impact so big? Take a look at what we’ve found:

Flexible Learning

Across the board, whether it’s in the academic world or the corporate sector, one of the biggest benefits of eLearning is that it allows for a more flexible learning schedule. For college students who are juggling their course load, work, and/or commitments with family and friends, a flexible schedule could be exactly what they need to continue their studies at a time when it may seem otherwise impossible.

Digital learning options provide them with the ability to complete modules and courses when it fits into their schedule. They may opt to run through an entire course in one week, or they may space the modules out to a couple of times per week in the evenings. Either way, they’re getting it done on their terms and it’s providing them with the opportunity to gain the knowledge they need to succeed.

Cost Savings

According to the same ASU/BCG study, eLearning resulted in cost savings for students and their higher learning institutions. On average, the savings ranged from $12 to $66 per credit hour. When you consider that many standard courses are worth 3credits, that could be nearly $200 in savings for one class.

Assuming a student takes 2 online courses per semester, that’s nearly $3,200 in savings over the course of their four-year collegiate career. And if a student is taking a full-time course schedule online for four years, they could be saving about $8,000. Those are huge savings in general, but especially if a student is being cost-conscious and trying to get the most bang for their educational buck.

Course Acceleration

Interestingly, the study shows that students who took 41-60% of their courses online graduated a full semester earlier than their less-digital counterparts. Again, for a student that’s looking to fit their education around their busy life - or who has big post-graduate plans - the prospect of graduating early could be huge.

Piggy-backing off our previous point, graduating half a year early could also have a big financial impact for students who would be able to avoid a semester’s worth of tuition, room and board, fees, and books.

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