Research suggests that Generation Y first-year students have a high attrition rate as a result of their level of expectations and enthusiasm for the college experience, which often leads to disillusionment. According to Education Dynamics' November 2008 survey by California State University-Northridge, reasons online students drop out include financial challenges (41%), life events (32%), health issues (23%), lack of personal motivation (21%), and lack of faculty interaction (21%). Among online students who dropped out of their degree or certificate programs, 40% percent failed to seek any help or resources before abandoning their programs. Nearly half (47%) of students who dropped out did so before completing one online course. (Article by Loren Kleinman)My only personal survey -- I have a daughter in college -- also results in complaints about faculty who don't post grades in an online system immediately after collecting exams or essays. I definitely believe that high schools are raising student expectations about feedback and about the immediacy of feedback. That seems to me to imply the need for two types of assessments.
Students today do want immediate feedback. Assessments and especially self-assessments can be added to classes which include instant feedback. While challenging to build, feedback can be personalized at least to the extent that it gives direction on what specifically the student needs to review and where to find the missing information in the course content. Pearson has done a good job of building this sort of detailed feedback into their MyMathLab product.
On the other hand, this sort of feedback really is not faculty interaction in any meaningful sense. Learners still need a discussion area where faculty are quick to respond to questions and concerns. Requiring that learners participate in a discussion area several times a week and responding promptly to the majority of posts builds a sense of community and the type of relationship with learners that ensures they are comfortable asking questions. We don't want learners to abandon courses without asking at least one person for assistance and we need to make it easy and natural for them to go to their instructor for assistance.