Perry, Bowman, Care, Edwards & Park

Why Do Students Withdraw from Online Graduate Nursing and Health Studies Education?

Beth Perry, Athabasca University
Jeanette Boman, Athabasca University
W. Dean Care, University of Manitoba
Margaret Edwards, Athabasca University
Caroline Park, Athabasca University


Why do nursing and health studies graduate students who are enrolled in online programs decide to withdraw? The qualitative study reported in this paper investigated students’ self-identified reasons for withdrawing from an online graduate program in nursing and health studies. The focus of the study was Athabasca Universities’ Centre for Nursing and Health Studies (CNHS) online graduate program. Data were collected from program students who initiated withdrawal between the years 1999-2004. Using Rovai’s (2002) Composite Persistence Model as a framework for analysis, themes identified from withdrawing students’ notice of withdrawal letters are discussed. The major reasons for leaving can be placed into two categories, personal reasons (often related to life or work commitments) and program reasons (usually related to learning style and fit with career). These findings, and the resulting analysis, have implications for online program design and delivery and student support programs. With a better understanding of student reasons for leaving a program of studies, it will be possible to explore which program elements might be altered to improve the experience of online learning.

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