I was reading an interesting article the other day regarding 1st generation college students and their access to and understanding of technology. And it prompted me to think, that while most of my academic research deals with 1st generation students I have never taken the online student into consideration. So I decided to delve into this area for my 1st blog. According to a 2010 NCES survey almost 50% of students enrolled in higher education are considered to be 1st generation students; and as more and more of these students are enrolling into online as well as on ground programs it is imperative that colleges and universities address their unique circumstances (Hirudayaraj, 2011, p.2). Even though more 1st generation students are moving on to post-secondary education, they are still persisting at a lower rate than their multi-generation peers. In the article, Supporting First Generation Online Students it was indicated that;
Adding the “distance” component to the challenges faced by first generation learners decreases their potential to succeed in an online class or program. These students face additional challenges including access to reliable internet service, skills to utilize online support services and/or software, and social/psychological skills to navigate the higher education system (Garcia, 2007).
This is further noted by a report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that indicates that the statewide drop rate for 1st generation online learners is 25% while it is 18% for their on-ground peers. There are measures that colleges and universities can provide to increase the efficacy with which they retain at-risk online students, such as ensuring that their resources and staff are available online, and a vast majority do so (Garcia, 2007). But one of the forgotten challenges that face 1st generation students, is their inability to navigate the system (Garcia, 2007; Walpole, 2007). These students lack the requisite cultural capital that is necessary to navigate higher education (Oldfield, 2007). In essence these students need to learn how to learn and prosper in this environment.
The importance of this is that students, whether they are 1st generation or multi-generational college students can succeed and persist in the online environment. Tinto has indicated that if a student can make a connection with at least one individual on campus they are more likely to persist, and as an online student interacts in a virtual way with the campus this becomes even more imperative. The instructor of an online course becomes not only a mentor but a guide to higher education and technology for the student. I have had the experience of working with students who have never turned a computer on, had them in their school, or had internet experience; these were traditional college students. To conclude, as we live in a digital age it is easy to assume everyone is literate and fully capable in this realm and we can lose track of a large percentage of students. It is imperative that higher education institutions use all the resources at their disposal, whether it is data, support services, or faculty and staff to intervene and promote success for all students.
Anthony Rivas | Assessment and Analytics Group | Pearson eCollege
Garcia, M. (2007). Supporting first generation online students. Retrieved from http://www.onlinestudentsupport.org/Monograph/firstgen.php
Hirudayaraj, M. (2011). First-generation students in higher education: Issues of employability in a knowledge based economy. Online Journal for Workforce Education and Development 5,(3). Retrieved from http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1098&context=ojwed
Oldfield, K. (2007). Humble and hopeful: Welcoming first generation poor and working class students to college. About Campus, 11(6), 2-12.
Tinto , V. (2004, July). Student retention and graduation: Facing the truth, living with the consequences. The Pell Institute; Occasional paper, Retrieved from http://www.pellinstitute.org/tinto/TintoOccasionalPaperRetention.pdf.
Walpole, M. B. (2007). Economically and educationally challenged students in higher education: Access to outcomes. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, 33(3), 1-113. doi:10.1002/aehe.3303
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