Attrition rates for online courses are high--very high.
In our culture's frenzied love affair with all things digital and mediated--some things really are pleasant to do while at home on the couch in our PJ's--it is worth noting that face-to-face presence exerts a kind of social pressure.
- When a student shows up to class, he may well feel (quite rightly) that he should kind of do the homework, as the professor might call on him. Call it fear. Call it a stressor. But it's real.
Thus the simple fact of needing to show up at a given place and time, together with the fear of embarrassment, produce a beneficial effect: a student does some work.
Absent this pressure, it's quite easy to forget about the class entirely.
Okay: admittedly some face-to-face students are quite capable of forgetting about those classes entirely, too. But that's another story.
Those of us who teach online--as I have for the last five years--develop strategies, and institutions do the same. Here are seven simple ways to lower the attrition rates in online courses.
In short: englobe the student in a social network, help her know you care; make sure she knows what the next steps are--and that they are do-able.
--Edward R. O'Neill