Learner Profiling for Improving Learner Success

Latifah Abdol Latif, Thirumeni T Subramaniam and Zainuriyah Abdul Khatab
Open University Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

There have been many research projects on learner attrition in open and distance learning institutions. Open University Malaysia has introduced numerous interventions to mitigate the first semester attrition, where the drop-out rate is highest, but improvements have yet to be seen. This work aims to gather learner profiles to be used as a guide in studying attrition. The research uses a survey methodology, with the survey instrument consisting of two parts. Part I had eight items covering the demographic profile; and Part II consisted of 49 items related to three constructs: personality, attitude and motivation. The survey was conducted online using SurveyMonkey. The first-semester learners in the January 2016 intake were asked to access the survey via the URL which was posted in the Learning Skills for Open and Distance Learners course portal. Of the total population of 2,970, 637 (21.4%) responded, but only 438 completed questionnaires were used for the analysis. Statistical analysis using SPSS version 22 showed that the 4-scale inventory provided good reliability for all three constructs. In the personality construct, more than 90% of the respondents fell into the ‘high’ category for openness to experience and conscientiousness; 84.4% were in the ‘high’ category for leadership; and only 78.3% were in the ‘high’ category for the autonomous construct. In terms of attitude, more than 90% of the learners were ‘high’ for both the attitude towards career and attitude towards education). Under motivation, affiliation and power have less influence compared to achievement. This outcome suggests that, while learners are generally open to experiences and conscientious, effort is needed to encourage and guide them to become more autonomous, which is a required characteristic for learners in open and distance learning. For learners with a positive attitude towards education and career, their academic achievement can be a motivating factor. This suggests that the university programmes should be designed to meet the needs of working adults in their career development, as this is most likely to increase the likelihood that they will achieve academic success and complete their programmes.