This integrated literature review examined factors associated with the ability of students to persist in an online course. Lack of persistence in online education and its' consequence of attrition, is an identified problem within the United States and internationally. Terminology has wavered between persistence and success, where each has been interchangeably used to characterize a student that completes a course and continues to program completion. Separate searchers were conducted in Academic Search Premier, CINAHL Plus, the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) Education Full Text, Ovid, and the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching (JOLT). Search terms included persistence, distance education, and online learning. Inclusion criteria included published after 1999, article from a peer-reviewed journal, and article addresses student factors leading to persistence. Exclusion criteria included article not related to factors of persistence, no original data, and article not written in English or not related to online courses. Factors associated with student persistence in an online program include satisfaction with online learning, a sense of belonging to the learning community, motivation, peer, and family support, time management skills, and increased communication with the instructor. Persistence carries the nuance of complexity beyond mere success. Factors unrelated to knowledge have the ability to provide support, thus allowing the student to overcome hardships in completing a course. If persistence factors are not present in sufficient quantity, the student may be at risk of withdrawing from an online course.
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