3 Reasons Behind Low Completion Rates of Online Courses and How to Improve

Completion rates for online courses become a major concern when 40-80% online learners just give up the courses with unsatisfied e-learning experiences. Despite this fact, the potential of technology in education is so great that there is a steady rise in the number of online courses every year. Moreover, the emphasis of many organizations nowadays is to develop rapidly more. The question is whether quality could reach up to quantity and how to improve completion rates?

There is no denying that the application of technology has made education much more convenient. It is such an effective tool to enhance learning experiences and approach students with a more effective teaching method. Benefits of e-learning are early realized and well-received, resulting in a growing number of MOOCs worldwide. However, why do the students drop out?

Why are completion rates so low?

This article emphasizes on the reasons behind low completion rates from student’s perspectives. The most reasons attributing to the high attrition include motivation, technical issues and lack of support.

1. Technical issues

The new generation of students is often assumed to be tech savvies. However, there is a fact that students’ familiarity with social media or video games doesn’t mean that he has enough skill for e-learning. Technology proficiency is necessary for any learners to complete their assignments and optimize all the functions of online learning system. Low computer literacy skills affect students’ learning experiences so much that they easily drop out when they see no advantages but burdens in online courses.

Technical issues do not come from students computer-related skills only. It could be frustrating to learn in a low technological environment with troubles as slow Internet connection. Not everyone is equipped with high bandwidth. Take online college for example. Many students use the campus Wi-Fi and many don’t even have their own computers. All take advantage of the public equipment, which doesn’t always provide best Internet speed. The bandwidth problem alone gives bad impression to their e-learning experiences. It not only slows them down but also makes it harder to follow the virtual class.

2. Peer and instructors’ support

E-learning has a much larger barrier to communication than traditional face-to-face learning. Online learners often have that fear of isolation. Yes. They are on their own with a lack of peers collaboration and limited support from instructors. Unless it’s a virtual classroom with live-session where teacher and students communicate with each other through a screen, most stuck with studying alone. There is much more interaction in traditional classes that we get used to for years. Simple and natural things like raising a hand if you have a question, going to your professor’s office for further clarification or joining study groups with peers are almost unavailable in online classes. Technology is supposed to bring people closer despite their geographic distance but has such specific limitation.

Nowadays, such connection is replicated by many tools allowing the students to discuss the lessons and ask the lecturers to clarify a problem. This solution enhances student’s learning experiences but doesn’t completely solve the problem. Online study needs to be more interactive. Students should not only communicate with each other but also build their own network and virtually join the community with realistic values.

3. Motivation

Online courses are mostly designed for students to study at their own pace. This grants them total control of how, where and when they study. It is one of the most advantages of technology in education but has a deadly weakness in a strong reliance on students’ attitude towards learning. Online course lacks accountability. No one checks on how students complete their tasks and there is no punishment for absence or slack-off during a lesson. The Internet has millions of distractions and social media is one of the most factors contributing to their lack of focus on online learning. Online learning may sound tempting at first when they could cut down costs on training and receive all the convenience of free time and distance learning, however, if one cannot control their time and management to the courses well, he is more likely to drop out.

Online courses should be designed to keep students’ focus also. Concentration, whether it is an online or face-to-face class, is key to student’s completion and success. Fortunately, attitude is not something beyond our control. We have that power to produce courses with more engaging value that overcomes the distractions. There are lots of tools to enhance engagement and give students better experiences than watching a long video of lecturer talking or reading full-of-text documents. A small change in lesson plan like adding animated learning videos could make a big difference.

It’s too soon to be afraid, my friend

The application of technology in education sure brings lots of convenience in learning. However, the question is how could we make the best out of it. Have you ever questioned why something so potential but has such low results, It is promising and it is still improving, which broadens our route to brighter education future. Don’t be tricked by the number, we can improve it.

Let’s boost the completion rates!

1. Engage students with multimedia

Students don’t motivate themselves alone. There are various burdens affecting their learning experiences like distractions or isolated feeling when studying on their own. However, many online courses still work like this: they give learners a bunch of documents then expect them to read all through and complete the test. Seriously, who would want to read a forever long document? Please don’t motivate students to leave by boring materials.

Learning is supposed to be fun.

This applies even to business and science subjects. Optimizing multi-media in your lessons like a chart, a picture, an audio or video could make big difference. Such small change could do the trick, especially video. The key here is to give students an informative break. This releases their stress and revises their motivation to continue the lesson. Moreover, visualizing your lesson with video makes students understand much better. This saves your time explaining for hours, and their time also. Time is vital. The new generation of students has a shorter memory span nowadays. This is why many courses are divided into small sections with 5-10 minute long videos.

2. Virtual community

Many educational organizations nowadays rely fully on technology. However, there is one thing technology could hardly replace, which is communication. A bad designed online course could make students feel so isolated that they drop out.

One quick way to terminate isolation is just to create a small smart chat room for learners. It could be as complicated as a live chat room, or as simple as an open forum or comment section. This community allows students to share their ideas and questions related to the lessons. Many learning system platforms optimize communication by connecting students account with their social media such as Facebook or Google+. It is such a wise move to connect students with each other and their lecturers. When they feel as a part of the community, they will be more engaged to the courses.

Moreover, the educators need to be involved more in the students’ activities than just appearing on the screen. One big failure of online learning, especially MOOCs, is that they leave the students alone as soon as they upload their lessons. E-learning is about enhancing student’s experiences, not abandoning them to technology. Leaving email for clarification, joining that chat room or answering comments related to the subjects, lecturers should be part of the community also. The closer the connection between tutors and students get, the more likely the students will complete the course.

3. Personalization

Giving students some attention could increase their motivation to complete the course. There is always one or two students in class that are struggling with the lessons. The key here is to identify their struggles and provide support as soon as possible. The students are not likely to ask lecturers, we need to find them. This can be done by checking the class discussion and identify the one that seems to be in difficulties. Then there are various ways to support the students and make them feel more belonged to the courses:

  • Sending them an email saying that you understand their struggles and suggesting they ask any question if needed. However, the best is to call students for support. This enhances the student and tutor connection and makes them feel more responsible for completing the courses. They don’t want to make their friendly and supportive tutor down, do they?
  • Offering extra materials for their own needs. This could be an animated explainer video or a document.
  • Creating study group. It is a great idea to divide students into group of 5-7. Students can support each other and even compete against other groups. The support, as well as the competition, will boost their motivation to complete the final exam. Not to mention that groups could bring great learning materials for course improvement.

Final Words

E-learning provides students various convenience in time and cost proficiency. However, the low completion rates prove that students need more than just convenient learning. Enrich teaching materials, creating a community for them to share and discuss their ideas and keeping track of individual needs are keys for the better online learning experiences.

Read Further

Read more:  How to Measure Student Engagement in eLearning

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