Strategies To Improve Retention Of Postgraduate Business Students In Distance Education Courses: An Australian Case.

Carroll, D., Ng, E. and Birch, D., 2013. Strategies To Improve Retention Of Postgraduate Business Students In Distance Education Courses: An Australian Case. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 14 (1), pp. 140-153.

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Postgraduate business students represent a significant source of enrolments and, hence, student-based income for Australian higher education providers. As recently as 2010, postgraduate enrolments in business courses accounted for around a third of all postgraduate enrolments in the Australian higher education sector, and nearly a tenth of all higher education enrolments overall. Moreover, a great many of these students, typically in an attempt to balance study with work, family and other extra-curricular activities, choose to undertake their studies by distance education. Indeed, one-fifth of all students enrolled in a course of study at an Australian higher education institution undertake at least some of their studies by distance education (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR], 2011). Fee-paying international students comprise a greater than average proportion of enrolments in business courses at Australian higher education institutions; around half in 2010, compared with just over a quarter of enrolments in all fields (DEEWR, 2011). This dependence on international student enrolments poses a threat to the providers of these courses, as international student demand for places in Australian higher education continues to wane as a result of the strong Australian dollar, changed student visa requirements, aggressive competition from the USA and UK higher education sectors, and recent negative publicity concerning the safety of onshore international students (Lane & Akerman, 2010). Therefore, maximising revenue from currently enrolled domestic and international students through improved retention strategies will be of increasing importance to providers of postgraduate business courses if they wish to remain financially viable in the immediate term, as fee-paying international students become increasingly hard to recruit.The logic of customer retention in the services sector - that it requires fewer resources to retain existing customers than to recruit new ones - applies as much to higher education as any commercial service (Bejou, 2005), yet the process of retaining existing students is less understood than the process of recruiting new students (Derby & Smith, 2004; Trotter & Cove, 2005). This is especially true for distance education student retention, in spite of the fact that this model typically experiences higher drop-out rates when compared with on-campus delivery (Tresman, 2002).In order to address this relative lack of information concerning the retention of distance education students in general, and postgraduate business distance education students in particular, this paper presents a range of strategies intended to improve the retention of students in this context. These strategies are based on the findings of an exploratory case study into the factors affecting the retention of postgraduate business distance education students at an Australian university where the majority of the student body undertake their studies by distance education. Readers with a stake in the provision of postgraduate business courses by distance education may use these strategies as a starting point for improving their student retention rates, or use them to validate their current approaches. In this paper, we first provide a brief overview of the literature addressing the factors which can potentially affect student retention. We then present an overview of the primary research on which this paper is based, including the qualitative methodology and a summary of the key findings. Next, a range of strategies designed to improve the retention of postgraduate business distance education students are discussed. Finally, limitations of this research are acknowledged, avenues for further research in this area are noted and conclusions are drawn.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:retention ; postgraduate ; progression ; higher education
Group:Business School
ID Code:22201
Deposited By: Unnamed user with email symplectic@symplectic
Deposited On:08 Jul 2015 13:30
Last Modified:08 Jul 2015 13:30


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