For the past couple of years Australian universities' enthusiasm for online learning has increased, following the lead of international universities in realising the potential of MOOCs to replace traditional face-to-face learning.
Online learning presents an opportunity to provide access to higher education for traditionally underrepresented groups. However, the combination of the new mode of delivery (online) and working with non-traditional students presents challenges for how to make education inclusive.
The attrition rates for online learning and for non-traditional students are both high, creating a risk that the factors that drive attrition among these groups may compound.
The reasons that students are more likely to drop out of online learning are complex. Some researchers have suggested attrition seems to be affected by a mix of personal, institutional and circumstantial variables, and a “sense of belonging” was one aspect deemed to be important.