|September Post for GETInsight Blog|
My September GETInsight blog post is now live. This month I explore the potential of social technologies to increase retention rates in online classes. Retention rates in online classes are generally lower than their face-to-face counterparts and this is a hot topic as the US continues to see online enrollments soar year over year.
I invite you to read the post here on the GETideas.org network!
If you’d like to continue this conversation, I will be hosting a free, live online “office hours” event on GETIdeas.org on September 21st at 9:00am PST. Stay tuned for registration details.
I greatly enjoyed having taken the opportunity to read your post regarding online retention rates. I have been at a community college for several years and have seen initial enrollment in our distance learning courses, which began over ten years ago, grow rather quickly. Not only have class sizes increased at a greater rate than traditional courses, the number of sections for many courses has significantly increased in all disciplines. Our campus faculty and administration are certainly motivated to address the lower retention rates in these courses. While the demographics of our “typical” students are quite similar to the description you provided, there are a number of students who can recollect life without the internet. which expands the diversity in learning capabilities of the students. Add to this, the recent economic climate as well as admission rates to four-year campuses decreasing, have made a significant impact on our overall enrollment … our classes are full! These factors place a greater burden on faculty, relative to the student: instructor ratio, as well as other student services, ultimately making in impact on retention.
While in complete agreement with your comments relating to social technologies, college leaders and decision makers could help expedite this transition from a text based learning environment, to one which has greater interactivity and encourages greater levels of student engagement with classmates, their instructor, and the content of the course. There seems to have been a similar type of transition in our traditional classrooms over the years. Much of this, I believe, is a result of technological growth. Another variable is the extent to which individual faculty members desire and/or need additional training, knowledge, and learning to effectively utilize social technologies. Perhaps addressing change and possible resistance in this circumstance warrants consideration. This is a student, instructor, and administrative issue.
I almost laughed aloud when reading your comments on maintaining human connection. I taught an online course previously, and I believe you took the words right out of my when you described not being able to recognize your students at graduation. While I did actually meet my students in person twice (once for a mid-term and a second time for a final exam), it was not unusual to have met a student, after the mid-term, for a second time at the check-out line at the grocery store! They recognized me! When I would ask what their email address or name was, their previous work and communications would run through my head … and they had an identity! This was not how I wanted to know my students.
Information about “the missing link” was extremely valuable and quite frankly, inspirational! I do not exaggerate this point! However, it also leads me to consider the necessary resources required, i.e., personnel, knowledge, time, and budgetary, in order to develop a similar learning environment. As I write this, I wonder what hurdles might crop up, not solely for my specific set of circumstance, but as well, for the wide range of conditions and resources that exist at all educational institutions. This leads me to believe understanding how to acquire adequate resources to better develop more effective learning environments, is as important, if not more than acquiring the knowledge base for effectively designing and implementing tools with which to elevate levels of learning and retention.