Research: Simple changes and a touch of humor improve online student success


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News release from IPFW:

Research: Simple changes and a touch of humor improve online student success

(November 10, 2014) — By making several small activity and communication changes, plus adding a dash of humor, an Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) professor saw a five percent increase in the passing rate for students in online classes.

Karen VanGorder, executive director of the Division of Continuing Studies (DCS), presented research describing these changes at the 2014 EDUCAUSE National Conference, September 29-October 2 in Orlando, Florida. The session was called “Implementing an Online Student Success Program on Campus.”

At her session, VanGorder reported the results of a study she asked Michelle Drouin, associate professor of psychology, to complete based on her greatly improved online student retention rates. Drouin teaches both online and traditional classroom-based psychology courses.

Noting statistics showing that traditional IPFW students who met face to face in the classroom with their instructors during the fall 2011 through summer 2012 school year had a 12 percent higher passing rate than those taking online classes, VanGorder and Drouin wanted to see if they could improve the success rate of online students by implementing changes to the program.

After incorporating a set of changes which included a syllabus quiz, scaffolding discussion thread comments, e-mails to struggling students, and a funny e-mail sent out the week before the exams, Drouin noted a 5 percent increase in the passing rate of her online students from the fall of 2012—when the program was first initiated—to the spring of 2014, after the program had been implemented for nearly two years.

Encouraged by these findings, VanGorder and Drouin intend to be involved in additional studies related to online learning in the future. Drouin currently is conducting research on the IPFW campus with young adults to learn the ways in which technology affects communication.


About IPFW Online Learning
Online Learning at IPFW is growing in popularity as students enjoy the ability to study from home or from anywhere in the world from the convenience of their own computer and Internet connection. In the 2012-2013 calendar year, 16,181 students were enrolled in 320 courses involving 47,242 credit hours of online learning. IPFW has expanded the number of degree programs that are available totally online. These programs include General Studies, Information Systems, and RN to BS and MS degrees in Nursing that are administered by the Division of Continuing Studies in collaboration with the respective academic units. US News and World Report has recently ranked IPFW 9th nationally on its listing of 2014 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs and 3rd nationally in Best Veteran Bachelor’s Programs, largely due to faculty credentials, technology, and students services.
For more information on online learning at IPFW, visit www.ipfw/online. To learn more about EDUCAUSE, visit

About IPFW
Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), is the largest university in northeast Indiana, offering more than 200 prestigious Indiana University and Purdue University degrees and certificates. More than 13,000 students of diverse ages, races, and nationalities belong to the IPFW family. The 688-acre campus in Fort Wayne is home to over 9,900 degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students. Through IPFW’s partnerships with area high schools, almost 3,300 high school students take dual credit courses, simultaneously earning both high school and college credits. IPFW is an Equal Opportunity/Equal Access University accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Learn more about us at


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