“Michigan State researchers found that interruptions as short as 2.8 seconds can double the rate of errors in a sequence-based text,” according to eLearning Industry. Since eLearning students can be easily distracted when left to their own devices, how do institutions hold these students accountable and interested in the course materials, especially in this digital age where new information is constantly circulating? How do they prevent students’ eyes from wandering to their phones, tablets, or computers when they ding with new notifications or emails? A recent study conducted by Harvard University suggests that administering many short quizzes throughout a course dramatically increases student retention.
More steps to increase eLearning retention, according to eLearning Industry, include clearly defining benefits and expectations beforehand. “One of the most common reasons why learners drop-out of eLearning courses is that they are not always aware of what is expected of them after enrollment.” Therefore, creating a clear, concise plan that outlines these things for the students is key. Letting them know exactly what is expected and also some of the benefits if they stick to the curriculum really helps students.
Having a well-structured support system in place can help, too. Creating an environment where students truly feel like they can go to someone with questions or concerns will increase likelihood of students staying in a course.
Additionally, encouraging online collaboration with peers may help retain students. According to the article, being an active part of an online community makes students less likely to leave. People learn from other people – from their peers. When discussing a concept with their peers and explaining it to someone else, students can retain that information better.
Making sure to provide self-study activities could also help. Instructors need to keep in mind “that obligations and responsibilities may keep [students] away from the virtual classroom from time to time. Provide learners with links to online resources, downloadable learning activities and other information that they can use to catch up on their studies to supplement their education.” Many online learners are adults who work full-time or perhaps have children, so remaining understanding when they aren’t available to participate in online discussions, etc., is also key to keeping them in a course.
Further, catering to a wide range of learning needs will reach a higher number of students. Everyone learns differently! No two brains are the same; some people are visual learners while others are aural (auditory), verbal, or physical. Some students will learn better when aided by pictures or graphs while others learn better by reading or writing down the material. Some people are hands-on while still others learn better when the materials is supplemented by music or rhyme. Each type of learning style should be covered in a course. Offer multiple materials including heavy text-based articles, multimedia presentations, graphs, music, etc., so that individuals with different ways of learning will not be left out..
Finally, breaking down eLearning courses into more manageable lessons or modules can increase eLearning retention rates. “A common cause for learner drop-outs is frustration. This may seem like a rather simple challenge that can easily be addressed, but the truth is that frustration can diminish learners’ self-confidence and cause them to completely disconnect from the eLearning course itself.” In any course, even in person, the syllabus usually is distributed at the beginning of a course to let each student know every project, paper, or test that will be administered throughout the course. Students may want to have everything mapped out for them initially so they can plan, but it can certainly be overwhelming. While it’s a good idea to let the students know right from the beginning what is expected and map out the benefits they could reap, “eLearning professionals should break eLearning courses down into more manageable units that are spread out over time. . . Offer them the power to progress at their own pace, without having to worry about keeping up with their peers, so that they can feel confident in their ability to successfully complete the eLearning course and master the learning objectives.”