The three questions guiding this inquiry are: a) Is Goal Accomplishment Style, as measured by the Goal Orientation Index (GOI) related to persistence and dropout in an online, computer-conferenced class? b) Is there a relationship between other selected variables (Demographic, Personal, Institutional and Participative) and student dropout and persistence in an online, computer-conferenced environment? and c) Can a relationship between Goal Accomplishment Style and the other selected variables be identified and related to persistence and dropout in an online, computer-conferenced class? In the first chapter, the background and motivation for this study were developed and described. In this chapter, a rationale for the variables used in the study is presented.
The literature review for this study was conducted to identify variables, demographic, personal, institutional as well as participative, that have been used in prior research to better understand student participation or dropout in online courses. The review is organized into two main sections. The first section of the literature review investigates the concept of conation, as comprised of volition and motivation. An entire section of the literature review has been devoted to conation because conation serves as a conceptual framework for this study. The first research question examines the relationship between conation and persistence and dropout.
The second section of the literature review presents the discussion of related studies that have focused on student participation, attrition or dropout and the variables used in these studies. Much research has been conducted with respect to student participation and
attrition in traditional classroom courses. In addition, there are many research studies conducted using non-traditional classes and programs. Most of these studies were based on the Open University (OU) mode of distance education. There is scant research available, however, regarding non-traditional age students taking online, computerconferenced classes. Most research involving the online classroom deals with measuring and comparing student performance in online classes with the student performance in traditional classes (Hiltz,1994; Verduin & Clark, 1991).
This study, while contributing to the practice of delivering and supporting online classes by analyzing variables in relation to dropout and persistence, also contributes to the greater body of knowledge concerned with the practice of online learning with adult students as the focus. Taking responsibility for one’s learning is a characteristic of the adult learner (Knowles, 1984; Cross, 1981). For adult students enrolled in online, computer-conferenced classes, taking responsibility means making the necessary choices to balance busy work schedules with the demands of homelife and with academic requirements, all without the support of traditional class sessions. Using a new paradigm, computer technology, adult learners are taking classes in the online format in everincreasing numbers. To date, however, there is very little research on adult learners in the online computer-conferenced environment. This study should provide a small research base in this arena.
Conation: A Conceptual Framework
Conation is derived from the Latin verb conari, to strive (Atman, 1988, Davis, 1995). The American Heritage Dictionary of English Language defines conation as “the aspect of mental processes or behavior directed toward action or change and including desire, volition and striving.” Atman (1986) defines conation as “vectored energy”, e.g.,
personal energy having both direction and magnitude. Kolbe (1990) views conation as an orientation toward action. Conation is the link between knowing (cognition) and feeling (affection) which manifests itself as the action.
Conation is a basic component in Mezirow’s philosophy of transformative...