Why Learners Continue or Stop in eLearning

I’ve been reading research on learner persistence (desire to continue) in eLearning for a potential upcoming research report. I’d like to tell you some of my initial thoughts about the topic. Then I’d like to ask you some questions, which will help me determine what direction I go.

The issues about what makes a learner persist are fascinating but as I started reading, I also started to realize that the factors may be different for higher education and corporate learning. One of the major factors for persisting or not, is how close a learner is to completing his program. That is, a learner just starting a program is less likely to persist than someone closer to completing his program. This factor seems, at first glance, to be more relevant for higher education online degree programs than for corporate eLearning. But I’m guessing that there may be corporate online “programs” such as a leadership program where a series of courses is taken by prospective or existing leaders where this factor may also apply.

Another factor that seems to strongly help people persist is opportunities for interaction with peers and the instructor. This points to the need to design good social interactions. There’s a host of writings about how to do this, especially in higher education discussion forums and the virtual classroom. I’ve written plenty of these myself so seek and ye shall find. But what about self-paced eLearning? These typically don’t have social interactions! And we know that there are issues with persistence in self-paced eLearning. How do we help people persist there? I’m looking for gems in these articles that we can apply here.

One thing that’s clear in my reading so far is that different types of eLearning need different strategies. If and when I share this with you, there will be a need to differentiate strategies based on different types of eLearning.  Much of the research comes from higher education, which is the case for quite of bit of eLearning research, but we can still learn a lot if we are mindful of application. For example, one of the articles I read discussed how learners who don’t have adequate computer skills tend to need more support. Which of us in corporate environments hasn’t found that to be the case as well?

Some questions (you can answer below):

  1. How interested are you in learning more about what research says about improving learner persistence in eLearning?  Do you have specific questions you would like answered? If yes, please tell me.
  2. Would you be interested in benchmarking “completion rates” of certain types of courses? What types of courses? Do you have this data to share? Would you be willing to share it?

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