A Review of Predictive Factors of Student Success In and Satisfaction With Online Learning

Kauffman, Heather. “A review of predictive factors of student success in and satisfaction with online learning” Research in Learning Technology [Online], Volume 23 (27 August 2015).

ABSTRACT: Students perceive online courses differently than traditional courses. Negative perceptions can lead to unfavorable learning outcomes including decreased motivation and persistence. Throughout this review, a broad range of factors that affect performance and satisfaction within the online learning environment for adult learners will be examined including learning outcomes, instructional design and learner characteristics, followed by suggestions for further research, and concluding with implications for online learning pertinent to administrators, instructors, course designers and students. Online learning may not be appropriate for every student. Identifying particular characteristics that contribute to online success versus failure may aid in predicting possible learning outcomes and save students from enrolling in online courses if this type of learning environment is not appropriate for them. Furthermore, knowing these learner attributes may assist faculty in designing quality online courses to meet students’ needs. Adequate instructional methods, support, course structure and design can facilitate student performance and satisfaction.

The article is available for free here.

Faculty Focus: Student Persistence in Online Courses

Dr. Maryellen Weimer has a post over at Faculty Focus about understanding the key factors that affect student completion rates (persistence) in online courses.  She discusses Carolyn Hart’s article “Factors Associated With Student Persistence in an Online Program of Study: A Review of the Literature.”  This article is a review of 20 articles published on the subject since 1999. (Here is my post on the same article from last October.)

Weimer points out these factors affecting persistence from the article:

  1. Satisfaction with online learning
  2. A sense of belonging to a learning community
  3. Motivation
  4. Peer and family support
  5. Time management skills
  6. Increased communication with the instructor

The full post is available at Faculty Focus.



Carolyn Hart: Factors Associated With Student Persistence in an Online Program of Study: A Review of the Literature


This integrated literature review examined factors associated with the ability of students to
persist in an online course. Lack of persistence in online education and its’ consequence of attrition, is an identified problem within the United States and internationally. Terminology has wavered between persistence and success, where each has been interchangeably used to characterize a student that completes a course and continues to program completion. Separate searchers were conducted in Academic Search Premier, CINAHL Plus, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) Education Full Text, Ovid, and the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT). Search terms included persistence, distance education, and online learning. Inclusion criteria included published after 1999, article from a peer-reviewed journal, and article addresses student factors leading to persistence. Exclusion criteria included article not related to factors of persistence, no original data, and article not written in English or not related to online courses. Factors associated with student persistence in an online program include satisfaction with online learning, a sense of belonging to the learning community, motivation, peer, and family support, time management skills, and increased communication with the instructor. Persistence carries the nuance of complexity beyond mere success. Factors unrelated to knowledge have the ability to provide support, thus allowing the student to overcome hardships in completing a course. If persistence factors are not present in sufficient quantity, the student may be at risk of withdrawing from an online course.


Hart finds that persistence is “a multi-faceted phenomenon that leads to completion of an on-line program of study. Although several studies have examined the relationship between persistence and on-campus student success, little consensus exists for which factors are significant and lead to persistence in the online student.”

Hart outlines factors that are either “facilitators of persistence” or are “barriers to persistence.”

Among the facilitators:

  • College status and graduating term (the close to graduation the higher the persistence rate)
  • Flexibility, asynchronous format, time management
  • Goal commitment
  • Grade Point Average

Among the barriers:

  • Auditory learning style
  • Basic Computer skills
  • College status and graduating term (further from graduation the lower the persistence rate)
  • Difficulty in accessing resources
  • Isolation and decreasing engagement
  • Lack of computer accessibility
  • Non-academic issues
  • Poor communication

There are also factors that can be positive or negative in their impact.  Among those are:

  • Quality of Interactions and Feedback
  • Satisfaction and Relevance
  • Self-Efficacy and Personal Growth
  • Social Connectedness or Presence
  • Emotional Support of Family and Friends
  • Technical Support

A PDF of the full article is available here.