Friday, January 22, 2016

Abandonment in eLearning Courses? via @emasie #345

In his latest edition of "Learning TRENDS", Elliott Masie notes a sharp rise in "abandonment in eLearning courses". Masie reports that learners "take the first session - but don't return for the next section" especially in MOOCs where there is often a 85% abandonment rate of registered learners after the first few segments of learning.

There are of course several reasons for abandonment. Among others, Masie suggests reasons such as "Interest Fulfilled", "Return If Needed", and the "Slippery Slope". I agree with his assertion that learning content creators need to "watch and learn from Television Producers about changing models of participation". 

Short, sharp, and focussed video content is what users want - I think this is a factor that everyone in the eLearning world acknowledges. It is here to stay. Asking learners to wade through hours of content in a MOOC or any other online course is an invitation to increase the abandonment rates. 

The pattern of student drop out of a typical course.
Source: Science20.
A recent report from Think With Google, tells us that a whopping "67% of millennials agree that they can find a YouTube video on anything they want to learn" and that what the report calls "micro-moments" are the new battlegrounds for "people's hearts, minds, and dollars". This trend has implications for Education at all levels. At third level, our courses are still broken into 3-4 years, in turn broken into semesters, then weeks, and finally 1-2 hour classes - the same as it has been for centuries. I see it in my own classes that it almost impossible to retain students' attention for a 50 minute lecture. This of course is not a new phenomenon - I was a student once myself who switched off seconds after the mention of Krebs Cycle in biochemistry class. No Facebook or YouTube to distract me in the 1970s!

Education content developers and providers need to absorb the above trend, and design learning around smaller chunks of Learning Objectives. Many third level institutions define a 12 week module with just 4 or 5 learning outcomes. Coming form an eLearning background myself I always thought that this was a bit ridiculous - eLearning was about developing Learning Objects (one per learning objective). A short three hour course could have 12 to 15 learning objectives. These were small chunks of learning developed individually and then assembled into a longer course. The elearning course was always structured in a way that students could always take the learning objects that they needed, and skip the ones they didn't need. My colleagues in CBT Systems/SmartForce in the 1990s were ahead of their time.

A new debate is needed in the next few years before this evolution in learning turns into a revolution. Thanks to thought leaders like Elliott Masie, I think this debate is underway and in good hands. Where it will lead us - we have to wait and see!

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