Academic Decay

Every semester many optimistic students sign up for courses, but how many actually stay in them, and of those, how many participate? Every semester when an instructor assigns weekly discussion board activities for online or hybrid courses, it surprises me how many people begin falling away from the course. In one of my psychology courses we began with a quite optimistic enrollment of 25 students, and now, 4 weeks into the course, we are down to 18 students still enrolled. During the first week we had 22 people to participate in the discussion board, the second week we lost a few and went to 18 (end of drop/add period, likely full class participation), then in the 3rd week we had 16 students to participate and then this week, only 13 students participated. I do not understand how students can let themselves fall out of a course like this. It is online, and they have all week to participate, but yet many choose to not participate in the course. For in-person courses I can understand, I have been the one to flake out of a course once or twice, but this is online, anytime stuff and it requires to academic skill at all, just talking to people, like any other discussion board, with a few guidelines. What concerns me more is the fact that if this few people are participating in the discussion boards, how many are participating in the tests each week? I probably do not want to know the answer to that question.

In most circumstanced I do not drop courses or abandon an online course, especially not this early in the semester. Why do others do it? I feel that students leaving a course weakens the overall strength of the course, especially when the number of students drops below 20. Schools that pride themselves on small class sizes do not really make sense to me. What is advantageous to having a class of 10 or 12 students? That is only 10 people to get ideas from or to see a different point of view from. Although, on the other side, I do hate courses that have more than about 50 students as well. Is 25 – 50 a good range for a class, or is this too much of a personal preference thing for myself?