Dropout in Online Higher Education: A scoping review from 2014 to 2018


Online higher education continues to grow, yet its high dropout rates remain a pressing and complex problem. This article presents a scoping review of the recent literature on the theme, focusing on dropout definitions, concepts, and models, study domains and themes, methodological approaches, and findings. A search of relevant databases yielded 138 articles and dissertations. Findings reveal a complex yet disorganized field, lacking standard definitions and models. The bulk of current research is focused on risk factors; the most important ones were course and program factors (student support), student factors (motivation, time management skills, and satisfaction), and environmental factors (time- and financial-related issues). Future research should strive to achieve greater consistency in terminology, methods, and measurement, develop new intervention strategies and produce reliable effectiveness information. Further implications of these findings for future dropout research and the limitations of the study are discussed.

The complete spreadsheet with coded papers is available in the Appendix.

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

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Xavier, M., & Meneses, J. (2020). Dropout in Online Higher Education: A scoping review from 2014 to 2018. Barcelona: Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. ISBN: 978-84-09-21209-5. https://doi.org/10.7238/uoc.dropout.factors.2020
Marlon Xavier
Marlon Xavier
Investigador doctoral

Investigador doctoral del programa d’Educació i TIC de la UOC.

Julio Meneses
Julio Meneses
Professor agregat

Professor de metodologia de la investigació, director de Learning Analytics de l’eLearning Innovation Center i investigador de l’Internet Interdisciplinary Institute de la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.