25 Ways to Reduce Dropout Rates in eLearning Courses (Part I)
Welcome to the problem a lot of people in the eLearning industry don't like to talk about -- high dropout rates for eLearning courses.
Without doubt, eLearning provides solutions to typical face-to-face training problems such as schedule flexibility,expenses related to travel time and residence, and accessibility. Unfortunately, these benefits are countered by the steady decline in eLearning completion rates, a threat that companies have been battling over the last decade.
Let's face it, just as students have reasons to sign up, so too they have reasons to drop out and not complete what they've started. The big question: What will make learners stick with the eLearning course until the end?
Here are some of the top causes of low completion rates and the definitive steps your company can take to ensure learners stay till the end. Make sure you check out Part II and read the other 14 items.
Problem: eLearning involves processes different from traditional classroom learning, including familiarization with and operation of new media, software and device. First time eLearners, especially the less tech-savvy, may find this deviation overwhelming and may distract them from the actual study module. In many cases, learners drop out due to big frustrations caused by basic technical problems, such as having inadequate equipment or even a bad internet connection.
1. One step at a time. Devote reasonable time to acquaint eLearners with the procedure before introducing the eLearning syllabus. Let them get used to the eLearning environment before you ask them to start to learn something specific.
2. Give them options. Managers can either implement a technology acquaintance session for all learners or offer the option to learners who indicate themselves to be new to the procedure.
3. An additional test, to score prowess over the technology or interface can help ease the transition to the syllabus for challenged learners.
Lack of motivation
Problem: Motivation is a bigger problem with eLearning than it is with conventional learning methods. Unlike the typical classroom setup where there is face-to-face interaction between students and instructors, eLearners literally report to a computer. So, if a corporate e-learner isn't internally motivated, you will have to step in. Creating a course that is relevant and motivating enough for learners to continue till the end is a basic step, but you need to go beyond that.
4. Reinforcement learning. A person's behavior, whether good or bad, is reinforced according to the outcome of a specific behavior. In eLearning, good study habits can be reinforced by regular exams and timely feedback from the administrators. When an eLearner feels that he gains significant knowledge and skills, he is motivated to learn more.
5. Get your learners talking! Implement a flexible virtual classroom where learners can interact with one another as well as the instructor, as the group dynamics help foster motivation for learning. Instant messaging or other 'real-time' discussions can help to motivate them even more. Having a blog where every learner can comment and participate is a good idea. Or how about having a class wiki to which each learner can contribute?
6. Build a “learning culture” that supports and values eLearning. This culture should take online learning just as seriously as classroom training.
7. Set expectations clear up front since the beginning.We all want to know what is expected of us, especially in new situations. Include expected behaviors, online discussions, technology difficulties, etc. When students do not or cannot accomplish their goals through the course, they will very likely drop out.
8. Encourage managerial guidance. It all has to do with how much motivation employees get from management. Studies reveal that if learners receive reinforcement on attendance and if they feel their progress is been tracked, they are more likely to finish the course.
Lack of support
Problem: Absence of personalized interaction is the main drawback in an eLearning program. You can have the best course, but if there are no instructors working with the learners, they will drop out. This is why it becomes fundamental that eLearning makes it easy to provide answers to learners' possible questions in real time. It may be difficult to answer questions in real time, but managers must have frequent and regular interaction with eLearners. Truth is, the effectiveness of technical support affects the quality of the eLearning experience for learners and can make or break the program.
9. Vary the types of communication, for example use a bulletin board for discussions and e-mails. This way, instructors can monitor participation and e-mail students who aren't contributing.
10. Leverage the power of group interaction. To make interactivity between students and instructors, cost-effective simple strategies like answering individual questions for the entire class on a bulletin board or requesting the class respond to a question are very useful.
11. Have a dedicated coordinator or facilitator who will be the one-stop contact point for learners.
Do you have any suggestions to ensure that your employees complete the online courses assigned to them without dropping out mid-way?
Just a tip for getting started: Before you publish your course, ask yourself if it's something you think your learners will want to read and complete. Is a course worthy of taking?