Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Glenda D. Musoba

Third Advisor's Name

Thomas G. Reio, Jr.

Fourth Advisor's Name

Marc Weinstein

Keywords

course scheduling, spacing effect, student success, survival analysis, longitudinal, college-level [and developmental] mathematics, course withdrawal, multilevel analysis, institutional research, data-driven decision making

Date of Defense

12-6-2012

Abstract

During the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase by postsecondary institutions in providing academic programs and course offerings in a multitude of formats and venues (Biemiller, 2009; Kucsera & Zimmaro, 2010; Lang, 2009; Mangan, 2008). Strategies pertaining to reapportionment of course-delivery seat time have been a major facet of these institutional initiatives; most notably, within many open-door 2-year colleges. Often, these enrollment-management decisions are driven by the desire to increase market-share, optimize the usage of finite facility capacity, and contain costs, especially during these economically turbulent times. So, while enrollments have surged to the point where nearly one in three 18-to-24 year-old U.S. undergraduates are community college students (Pew Research Center, 2009), graduation rates, on average, still remain distressingly low (Complete College America, 2011). Among the learning-theory constructs related to seat-time reapportionment efforts is the cognitive phenomenon commonly referred to as the spacing effect, the degree to which learning is enhanced by a series of shorter, separated sessions as opposed to fewer, more massed episodes.

This ex post facto study explored whether seat time in a postsecondary developmental-level algebra course is significantly related to: course success; course-enrollment persistence; and, longitudinally, the time to successfully complete a general-education-level mathematics course. Hierarchical logistic regression and discrete-time survival analysis were used to perform a multi-level, multivariable analysis of a student cohort (N = 3,284) enrolled at a large, multi-campus, urban community college. The subjects were retrospectively tracked over a 2-year longitudinal period. The study found that students in long seat-time classes tended to withdraw earlier and more often than did their peers in short seat-time classes (p < .05). Additionally, a model comprised of nine statistically significant covariates (all with p-values less than .01) was constructed. However, no longitudinal seat-time group differences were detected nor was there sufficient statistical evidence to conclude that seat time was predictive of developmental-level course success.

A principal aim of this study was to demonstrate—to educational leaders, researchers, and institutional-research/business-intelligence professionals—the advantages and computational practicability of survival analysis, an underused but more powerful way to investigate changes in students over time.

Identifier

FI13042204

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