Attrition in Online and Face-to-Face Calculus and Precalculus Courses: A Comparative Analysis

Sarah Ferguson, Old Dominion University


A multitude of online courses are available that provide opportunities for students to meet their higher education needs, goals, and desires in a nontraditional school setting. But, from a content specific perspective, how are students performing in online courses compared to their face-to-face counterparts? This study seeks to examine the attrition rates of online calculus and precalculus students relative to their face-to-face peers in an effort to expand the study of online mathematics pedagogy while providing course-specific data. Several studies have been conducted to explore attrition rates in relation to student demographics, STEM fields, and online course structure, but these studies do not take into consideration an acute content perspective. Focusing on calculus and precalculus while controlling compounding variables, this study seeks to answer the question: How do attrition rates in an online precalculus and an online calculus course compare to the attrition rates in a face-to-face precalculus and face-to-face calculus course? 

Keywords: attrition, online learning, synchronous instruction

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