DIGITAL NATIVES AND IMMIGRANTS: THE ROLE OF STUDENT ATTITUDES TOWARDS TECHNOLOGY ON ATTRITION AND PERSISTENCE IN PROFESSIONAL MILITARY EDUCATION ONLINE DISTANCE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS

Open Access
Author:
Hills, Michael K
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 08, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Bernard James Jansen, Dissertation Advisor
  • Bernard James Jansen, Committee Chair
  • Andrea H Tapia, Committee Member
  • Brian Harold Cameron, Committee Member
  • Priya Sharma, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Attrition
  • Distance Learning
Abstract:
High levels of attrition in online distance learning environments are well documented with an average persistence to graduation rate of just 38 percent according to figures for online programs compiled by the United States Department of Education (United States Department of Education, 2009). While there are many factors that may be said to influence this persistence rate, the important factors within instructional systems designers’ control are the ways technology is used in a course design and the ways in which it is applied to augment the distance learning environment to enhance the ultimate learning outcomes of students in a given online program. This study examines the relationship between student factors influenced by technology in two online distance learning programs providing professional military education to military officers and civilian equivalents in the United States Army and the United States Air Force. I gathered data for 3,074 students enrolled in the Army War College program and for 63,638 students enrolled in the Air Command and Staff College program. A document analysis of the past ten year’s attrition data and student surveys was conducted to search for patterns in attrition behavior to establish if a relationship exists between student perceptions of technology in the course design and attrition. This study tests the hypothesis that a student’s classification as a digital native or digital immigrant (Prensky, 2001a) influences perceptions of educational technology and their attrition from a program of study. While prior research in this area has sought to define these categories and the expected behaviors of each of the respective groups, this study seeks to better understand how a combination of factors rather than just age may define one’s status and influence attrition in this online distance learning environment. The implications are relevant to the design of online instructional systems capable of engaging and educating future generations of military officers to ensure the readiness of the military forces to meet their assigned missions and are likely to be applicable to online students outside of the military.