Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 593–618 | Cite as

A review of online course dropout research: implications for practice and future research

  • Youngju LeeEmail author
  • Jaeho Choi
Research Article


Although online learning is expanding in availability and popularity, the high dropout rates remain a challenging problem. In this paper, we reviewed the existing empirical studies on online course dropouts in post-secondary education that were published during the last 10 years. We identified 69 factors that influence students’ decisions to dropout and classified them into three main categories: (a) Student factors, (b) Course/Program factors, and (c) Environmental factors. We then examined the strategies proposed to overcome these dropout factors: (a) understanding each student’s challenges and potential, (b) providing quality course activities and well-structured supports, and (c) handling environmental issues and emotional challenges. Finally, we discussed issues regarding dropout factors and strategies for addressing these factors and offered recommendations for future research.


Dropout factors Online course Strategies Higher education Future research 


*These references make up the 35 past empirical studies that we reviewed

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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Virginia, Instructional Technology ProgramCharlottesvilleUSA
  2. 2.CharlottesvilleUSA
  3. 3.CharlottesvilleUSA

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