Individual Student Characteristics: Can any be predictors of success in online classes?

Amy Wojciiechowski
Louann Palmer


This study examined various student characteristics to determine their relationship to success in an online undergraduate business course at a community college. All students who had taken this online course during a three-year period of time were included in the study (n=179). Pearson product–moment correlations found significant relationships between students' grades in the online class and their GPA, attendance at a class orientation session, the number of previous course withdrawals, ASSET reading scores, the number of previous online courses, age, and ACT English scores. Regression analysis found that two variables serve as the best predictors: attendance at an orientation session, and the student's grade point average. Given the higher dropout rates often found within on-line courses, these findings could be used to counsel students regarding their decision to take an online course. Students who are older, have better GPAs and college entrance exam scores, have few previous course withdrawals, and who agree to participate in a class orientation session, are more likely to be successful in this on-line business class. Such results could hold true for other online courses as well.



Various student characteristics were examined to determine their relationship to student grades
(i.e., success) in an online undergraduate business course, including: (1) gender, (2) age, (3)
previous courses completed online, (4) American College Testing (ACT) English Scores, (5)
ACT Reading Scores, (6) ACT Composite Scores, (7) Assessment of Skills for Successful Entry
and Transfer (ASSET) Reading Scores, (8) ASSET Writing Scores, (9) grade point average, (10)
previous withdrawal from other courses, (11) semester format (16-week versus 8-week), (12) student status (full-time vs. part-time), and (13) attendance at an orientation session.
Data were collected from students taking an online business course offered through a small, rural community college in western Michigan . The population included all 179 students registered for this course beginning with fall semester 2000 through summer semester 2003, for a total of nine
different semesters. The same instructor using the same textbook offered all courses, providing instructional consistency across three years of courses.
Grade point average was found to have the strongest connection.
The second greatest factor was that of having attended an orientation session for the class.
The third strongest correlation involves the number of previous withdrawals from other classes.
The fourth strongest correlation was between a student's ASSET Reading scores and their final grade in the on-line course.
There was also a positive and statistically significant relationship between previous online
courses and the grade in the course (the fifth most significant).

APA Citation

Wojciechowski, A., & Palmer, L. B. (2005). Individual student characteristics: Can any be predictors of success in online classes. Online journal of distance learning administration, 8(2), 13.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Online
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Experiments
Intervention/Areas of Study Student readiness
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest 4-year Institution, Private
Specific Course or Program Characteristics Professions
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades
Student Sample Size 100-199
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