School of Education


Doctor of Education (EdD)


Tracey Pritchard


Distance Learning, Online Learning, Student Achievement


Education | Educational Leadership | Higher Education


The recent and rapid growth of technology during the last several years has dramatically increased the number of new online degree programs and courses in the United States. As a result, enrollment into these online programs and courses has also increased. The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) estimated there was a total of 12.2 million enrollments in college-level credit-granting distance education courses in 2006-07. A study by the Department of Education (2011) found that from 2000 to 2008, the percentage of undergraduates enrolled in at least one distance education class expanded from 8% to 20%. A Survey of Online Learning by the Babson Survey Research Group (2011) revealed that the number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6 million. Now nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course. With the recent increase in online education programs, many learning institutions are focused on student retention and graduation rates. This study sought to gather evidence from online distance education students that would lead to general conclusions about relationships between online attendance, participation, and student achievement variables using a quantitative research design. A simple random sample was drawn from the accessible population of students taking undergraduate online distance education courses at Wilmington University during the fall semester of 2012. The sampling frame included students registered in courses offered from every academic department at the university. The sample used in this study was 548 undergraduate online students from 34 online courses. This study identified a small effect size between volume of participation (R2 = .088) and student achievement in online learning. Furthermore, this study identified a small effect size between students' attendance and student achievement within online classes (R2 = .154). The findings of this study are consistent with previous research that determined there is a positive relationship between student attendance and participation and student final grade achievement (Nichols, 2003; Roby, 2004; Snell & Mekies, 1995). The findings of this research may assist schools and online administrators focus on student attendance and participation within online learning environments, which may be used as a performance indicator for student achievement.