Correspondence course completion rate: identifying at-risk students using personality variables



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Texas Tech University


Failure to complete courses through correspondence has been a problem since the late 19th century. While millions of people enroll in correspondence courses each year, very few actually complete. In fact, as many as 80% of students enrolling in correspondence courses never complete. This study examined possible predictors of noncompletion rates in correspondence courses. Personality, demographic, and environmental variables were used to assess differences between subjects who completed and subjects who did not complete the courses. Another criterion of final course grade was also assessed using personality, demographic, and, environmental variables.

Three hundred randomly selected students who had enrolled in correspondence courses through Texas Tech University in the summer of 1994, were contacted by the researcher to obtain feedback on the courses. The subjects were asked if they would complete a survey which included two personality instruments (the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and the Stanford Time Perspective Inventory) and a demographic instrument developed by the researcher. A return rate of 34% (a total of 101 subjects) was used as the sample population.

Discriminant analysis was used to assess differences between completers and noncompleters, and multiple regression was used to predict final course grade. Results revealed significant differences on five of the 21 predictor variables on the criterion of course completion. The significant predictor variables indicated that completers received more feedback from the instructor, enrolled in less difficult courses, received more interaction with the instructor, had higher scores on the Sensing scale, and were closer to graduating than were non-completers. Nine predictor variables were included in the prediction equation which indicated that completers were younger, female, received more feedback, enrolled in less difficult courses, were closer to graduating, had previously completed a correspondence course, had higher scores on the Sensing and Extraversion scales, and lower scores on the Perceiving scale of the MBTI than the non-completers. The prediction equation correctly classified subjects into their respective groups of completers or non-completers 78.5% of the time, while chance correctly classified subjects only 52% of the time.

Multiple regression on final course grades revealed significant differences on 5 of the 21 predictor variables and a model equation was formulated using the 5 significant variables. The five significant variables indicated that higher grades were made by subjects who were older, Anglo, received less student/instructor interaction, enrolled in less difficult courses, and lived from farther from campus than those receiving lower grades.

The most significant finding in this study involved the variables of amount of feedback received from the instructor and the amount of interaction between student/instructor. The amount of feedback received from the instructor was found to be important both quantitatively and qualitatively. Students who received more feedback from the instructors were more likely to complete and they rated the course more positively. Having a positive experience with the course was determined qualitatively through the phone interview. The amount of student/instructor interaction was also important. This finding was determined qualitatively and quantitatively and student/instructor interaction influenced final course grade, completion rates and course experience.