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Title: Understanding Student Discontinuation in Online Language Courses in Corporate Training
Authors: Cacheiro Quintas, Noelia
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Attrition in education has been a subject of interest for decades, gaining importance with the introduction of online learning. This change shifted language learning from the physical classroom to an online environment as a way to reach a wider audience, and lower financial costs – particularly with adult learners and their professional development. However, this increase in numbers also raised new concerns over student attrition and retention. This study – written in the context of lifelong learning (Weise, 2020; Sanchez, 2017) and adult theories (Bélanger and Chen, 2014; Trotter, 2006) and grounded online language learning (Pujolà, 2001; Weasenforth et al., 2002. Bailey et al., 2021), is conducted within the context of current policy to understand the English language courses examined in light of the courses characteristics and offer (Royal Decree 789/2015, September 4). Considering this, understanding the specific context in which this research happens is paramount. The identified theoretical gap stems from the understanding of student behaviour within retention and attrition offered by early theorists such as Spady’s (1970) or Tinto’s (1975, 1993), and later contributionsfrom Rovai (2003) or Park’s (2007). This gap warrantsthe need to reconceptualise the retention and attrition issue – including its terminology. In response, this study proposes discontinuers as a new category of student, and aims at understanding the causes leading to discontinuation in online language learning. This case study uses a mixed methods approach with data collected from secondary sources (e.g., attendance records); and primary sources (two questionnaires completed by 50 students; and 15 interviews with stakeholders involved in the course provision), offering a holistic approach of the issue. SPSS and NVivo were used for data analysis. Obtained findings provide an insight of the different parameters that influence student discontinuation, and contribute to the debate of persistence and attrition. The study concludes by means of a model, that it is rarely one factor alone, but rather a combination of causes that lead to students’ decision to discontinue in online educational contexts understood as a system. It determines that student behaviour begins to shape even before they start training, and that factors identified at that pre-course stage develop and trigger others as students go through the course and complete it. The study culminates by offering recommendations for policy and practice to reduce discontinuation rates in online training provision (e.g. student support, or understanding of students’ needs to adjust the content provided); and, specific recommendations for online language courses (e.g. practicing all language skills or a certificate of attainment).
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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