A comparison of traditional and nontraditional students taking distance education Internet courses
Distance education has had a long history in the United States, especially serving geographic areas that had little access to traditional educational opportunities. During the 1990s advances in technology helped to push distance education into the spotlight. Instead of the course of last resort, distance education is now viewed as an easy and economical method to reach more students.
The purpose of this study was to determine if there were differences in success indicators between traditional (ages 18 to 24) and nontraditional (ages 25 and over) students taking distance education Internet courses at a community college. The objectives were to more fully understand differences, if any, between traditional and nontraditional students by examining other variables to see if there were any interaction effects with the variable of student type that might influence successful completion in distance education courses. The additional variables included gender, grade point average, ethnicity, and persistence to the next semester.
Academic records and demographic information were collected for a sample of students at one community college. Students were grouped according to type (traditional or nontraditional). All students who enrolled in the 26 academic Internet courses offered for the fall 2003 semester were included in the study to ensure that each group was equally represented.
The traditional student sample consisted of 320 students (59 new; 261 returning). The nontraditional student sample consisted of 175 students (14 new; 161 returning). Analysis of variance, t-tests, and chi-square test were used to analyze the data.
The major findings were as follows. There was a statistically significant difference in the successful completion rate of nontraditional and traditional students. The successful completion rate for nontraditional students was 78.5% while the completion rate for traditional students was 64.5%. Although gender had no effect on the sample as a whole, there was a significant difference in completion by nontraditional females over nontraditional males, with females completing at a higher rate. Completion rate differences were significantly higher for new nontraditional students than new traditional students. There was a positive correlation between completion rate and grade point average. There was no significance in the persistence of traditional or nontraditional students.
0275: Community colleges