Thriving Online: Retention Factors for Students in a Graduate Online Nursing Program
This study examines the relationship between retention and student satisfaction within a graduate nursing program offered fully online by a large, private university in the northeast region of the United States. Relying primarily on the persistence framework developed by Braxton, et al. (2014), this study generates insights about the student experience within this program, particularly through the lenses of cultural capital, communal potential, psychological engagement, social integration, student-faculty engagement, and the role of institutional integrity and perceived commitment to student welfare. Situating my work within emerging research on the importance of building a sense of community and online retention (Byrom & Bingham, 2001; Hart, 2012; Rovai, 2002; Wighting, Lue & Rovai, 2008; Tinto, 2012), qualitative interviews led to specific insights from which six findings emerged and ten actionable strategies identified to sustainably improve student retention. This study reinforces that a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing retention issues is unlikely to be effective across institutions or programs. The broader access afforded through fully online programs means blanket policies and interventions may continue to fall short and supporting students within an online academic program requires a more tailored and responsive approach based on unique student needs.
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