Monday, May 14, 2012

Increasing Student Retention in Online Courses

Just passing on a very nice post on retention and new pedagogy inherent in online learning. It's written by a woman with a lovely name: Jennifer Golightly. She blogs at Pearson and backs up her ideas with research. 

I guess that I agree with 99% of her post, but here's a thought: perhaps it misses an important mark in suggesting that new pedagogy will look much like the traditional classroom experience if/when rich in discussion, peer interaction and feedback. OK, true enough, according to the research, but online interaction can be so much more. 


Yes, student-student interaction and student-teacher contact creates better engagement. But so does the learner's interaction with the ever-smarter (and patient) machine, as well as with an institutional support structure largely ignored in current online course design.

The movement in learning analytics demonstrates that the machine can be watching, looking for patterns, looking for key moments for feedback and interaction. If retention matters more than tradition in higher education, we're going to see external support structures incorporated into these moments.

For instance, The University of Washington Tacoma is now in a pilot collaboration with Persistence Plus  to see if online math students can benefit from behavioral interventions and support, delivered via their chosen devices and mobile platforms, integrated with course performance and whole-student support. Golightly is on target in stating that retention efforts rest in the course AND at the institutional level. For online students, what those efforts should look like is still to be determined. 
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