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Alicia Fernandez

Early Attrition among First Time eLearners: A Review of Factors that Contribute to Drop... - 1 views

  • Some have reported attrition from eLearning as high as 70 - 80% (Flood 2002, Forrester 2000, in Dagger & Wade, 2004). Parker (1999) argues that “With the growth of distance education has come the problem of exceedingly high attrition rates”. Citing Carter (1996), she suggests that eLearning student attrition in some institutions is exceeds 40%, while others (Frankola, 2001). Diaz (2002), put it at between 20 - 50%,  and Carr (2000), estimate it to be 10% - 20% higher than for traditional on-campus education.
  • learners in employment bring a different set of needs, strategies and motivations to the learning process.
  • frequently geographically removed from the learning resources, information sources, learner peers and Tutors compared to their on-campus peers
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  • Employed adults tend to complete eLearning in their personal time due to workload pressures in the workplace and/or Internet access issues at work
  • Cognitive Load Theory
  •  “Digital literacy involves more than the ability to use software or operate a digital device; it includes a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological and emotional skills, which users need in order to function effectively in digital environments.”
  • Learning complex or technically demanding material requires building mental models or cognitive schemas about the subject being studied or the skill being developed over time
  • Learning new material or a skill, for which a schema in long term memory is undeveloped or non-existent, can cause working memory to quickly overload its limited capacity. This overloading can result in a learner becoming highly anxious and losing confidence, which in turn can lead to the learning process, in effect, freezing and the learner being unable to continue.  
  • states that learning is initially processed in working memory
  • It is this author’s experience in designing, developing and delivering several eLearning programmes to public sector employees in New Zealand, that a face to face workshop prior the start of the online distance course can make a significant difference to a first time eLearner’s perception and experience of eLearning. 
  • This type of pre-course face-to-face induction workshop can also be used to foster the group’s sense of itself, and to identify the individual participants and their backgrounds, along with their expectations and concerns. It is also helpful to have the course design, structure and philosophy explained and to discuss anxieties associated with beginning an online course.
  • come to terms with the computing technologies involved.
  • al learning tasks of the first time eLearner
  • dimension
  • (1) negotiating the technology; (2) negotiating the course website; (3) negotiating the course content (4) becoming an eLearner (5) negotiating CMC interaction.
  • The multi
  • develop a mental model of the content structure and navigation system in order to find his/her way around
  • engage with the learning materials, readings, activities and assessments that make up a programme of study
  • Confronting the actual content and of becoming a learner again.
  • anxiety
  • abandon his/her existing mental model of what it is to be a learner in a formal learning situation
  • embrace a model based on a self-directed and motivated learner
  • undertake the learning tasks involved in interacting with peers via synchronous and asynchronous Computer Mediated Communication
  • Successfully negotiating this early experience depends very much on the relevant skills, circumstances, motivations and personal attributes of the learner. It follows then, that paying particular attention to how an eLearning course is structured and introduced and the manner in which the learner is inducted can make a very important difference in a learner deciding whether or not to engage and persist or to drop out. 
  • actually apprising learners of the issues of cognitive overload and how it is commonly experienced would go some way towards inoculating learners against its more pernicious effects.
  • Supporting learners till they are over the initial “eLearning learning-curve hump”, may involve a seemingly high level of resource and effort on the part of the course facilitator and associated programme administration staff, but the payoff is that fewer learners will drop out at the early stage.
  • Actively supporting, encouraging, gently cajoling and following up on learners who seem to be struggling will help to keep wavering learners in the course.
  • In terms of the actual course design and the structure of the materials and learning activities, then it is a useful practice to aim to start slowly and build the course tempo over time.
  • The one area where something may be done to reduce attrition is in the early stages of an online course.
  • Cognitive overload is a likely contributor to high drop out rates, particularly where those withdrawing do so within the first few weeks of the start of a course.  Greater levels of persistence and completions may be achieved if learners are supported to anticipate, prepare for, recognise and recover from the cognitive burden they may experience as first time eLearners.   
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    Looks at why some students don't make it through online courses- many first time online students are unsure what to expect and are just overwhelmed by the whole experience.
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    The experience of the first-time online learner is qualified. Suggestions for decreasing early attrition are suggested.
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    Attrition among mature adult online learners is affected by sociological, psychological, technical and cognitive factors, critical features of which are the notions of cognitive load and locus of control.
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