Fusch, D. (2010) Improving graduation rates for online students Academic Impressions, April 8
An interview with K. Udas, the CEO of UMassOnline, who provides some useful tips for course instructors for cutting down non-completion of online courses.
McCrea, B. (2010) Distance Education Reaches Out Campus Technology, October 13
This is a report on how a US community college retrofited its online courses to reduce drop-out, which left me with the question: why do so few US colleges and universities study best practice in online learning before moving in this direction? (see also: Review of book on disasters in teaching online)
Both these articles are rather like an emergency service putting out fires. It’s better to stop the fire in the first place.
Fire prevention in online learning is good quality course design that controls student workload, has clear objectives, well-structured and clear online learning materials, keeps students active through online activities and peer interaction, and provides regular feedback from and contact with instructors. This will do more to reduce drop-out than anything else.
Another great help, especially for students new to online distance education, is the excellent, well-designed U.K. Open University study skills web site. It even includes a section for post-graduate students.
The advice found on the UK OU site was initially developed Graham Gibbs, Alistair Morgan, OU staff tutors/counsellors and other experts in student learning drawing on research into effective studying habits, such as the work by Marton and Saljö on deep and surface learning. Incidentally the Marton and Saljö articles below on qualitative differences in learning are required reading for any instructor, whether online or in class (note the date).:
Marton, F. and Saljö, R. (1976) On qualitative differences in learning I: Outcome and Process British Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 4-11
Marton, F. and Saljö, R. (1976) On qualitative differences in learning II: Outcomes as a function of the learner’s conception of the task British Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 115-127