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A missing element of online higher education students’ attrition, retention and success: an analysis through a systematic literature review

Research output: Working paper



Online learning has facilitated higher education in many ways and made it more flexible and available for learners with multiple responsibilities. In spite of these benefits and rapid developments of online education, available information regarding graduation rates suggests that the vast majority of online learners drop out. This paper provides a review of the 30 empirical studies that investigate factors that influence online students’ experience in online higher education reported for a period of 10 years, from 2009 to 2019. The paper discusses the results of the analysis against the existing theoretical model of students’ attrition, retention and progress. The results of the literature review suggest 15 factors that can influence students’ online learning experience. These factors are grouped into four main sections: (a) student factors; (b) course/programme factors; (c) social factors, and d) support factors. Identified factors are discussed against existing theoretical models and a missing element in the considered models is highlighted.