Avoiding drop outs in your eLearning courses
Instructional Design

Avoiding drop outs in your eLearning courses

Isn’t it amazing, the expectations we have from our hard work?

In our case, a complete eLearning course that (apparently) does not lack any feature to entice and retain a learner. Unfortunately, and we hate to break it to you, many of the eLearning courses fail to create loyal learners and dedicated followers in the course learning communities.

What starts out as an enthusiastic beginning, soon faces a dramatic decline. There is an alarming rise in dropout statistics. In this article, we will investigate why and how we can avoid the common pitfalls.

The key is to hook the learner in your course from the very beginning. No matter what happens, do not let go! Online learning is a potentially ambiguous environment. The more you stay in touch and follow up, the better your chances of learner retention.

Clearly explain the expectations of the eLearning course. Talk about the total number of assignments, contact hours, peer interaction posts and projects to be submitted for the course. Most online learners complain that they were not informed of what to expect from the course.

Some time management tutorials, self-study tutorials and a brief on prerequisite materials will also be appreciated. Discuss the benefits of completing the course. This should be directly related to each learner’s work context. Real world rewards and incentives are the greatest motivators in adult education to keep them engaged and on task till the end.

Support is integral to online learner engagement. In fact, too many learners drop out due to lack of an online support system. Even over-achievers in your course may need a helping hand every once in a while. Regular communication helps dispel any doubts or concerns learners may have during the learning process, some maybe crucial to clear in order to achieve learning goals. Set up a predictable pattern of communication, for example, via email, and the response time. This effectively builds trust and replaces some of the “human touch” missing in the online environment.

Setting up a community of practice is the single most important step towards retaining learners and encouraging them to apply for more courses. Through online collaboration, they are able to share their ideas, feedback and personal experiences, which makes them feel as part of an active online learning community. A sense of belonging eradicates the feeling of alienation and promotes deeper understanding of the course content.

Promoting autonomy or independent study habits is another built-in strategy in your course that will help you retain your enrollment figures. Adult learners have several family and work obligations that may conflict with course activities. Provide your learners with links to online resources. These can include downloadable learning activities and other information that they can use to catch up and accomplish their learning objectives.

One of the essentials of eLearning instructional design is the use of a wide variety of multimedia. Different learners learn at varying paces. Some of your learners may prefer text-based information, others may be visual or auditory learners. Some may even prefer team based activities. Cater to a wide range of learning needs. The same rule applies to assessments. Be sure to include a variety of different assessment methods, from multiple-choice formats to scenario exams. This presents a relatively fair testing and evaluating strategy that create a win-win situation for all learners.

There is nothing more boring than a textbook with no last page in sight! If your eLearning course is just a fancy electronic textbook with a “next” button, then be prepared to lose your learners. Break down your course into smaller, manageable chunks. Create a course development rule: not more than 8 lines on a page and not more than 4 pages in a chapter.

Present a short review quiz at the end of each chapter. Help learners recall the correct information, feel good about themselves and happily jump to the next chapter! Break down eLearning courses into more manageable lessons or modules. Another helpful tip is to provide the power to tackle the course starting from a unit of their choice. This enables the learners to study materials they really want to, as opposed to being forced to study familiar material first.

Grab your learners while they are in your course. Don’t wait for more learners until you have successfully retained your current ones. A satisfied learner will help you achieve higher enrollment rates.

Good luck!


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