Friday, November 30, 2018

Why Students Drop Out of Online Professional Development Courses

The latest edition of IRRODL, has a paper by Luz, Rolando, Salvador and Sousa (2018) looking at why just over half of 3,026 Brazilian teachers did not complete their online Professional Development (PD) course. The authors conclude that this is due to teacher workload and technical difficulties accessing the courses. The design of the courses, gender and age of the students did not influence completion rates.

The authors suggest shorter courses would not reduce dropout rates, as these were similar for 12 week and 16-week courses. However, Figure 1 shows a steady dropout rate each week of a course (apart from a spike where there is a final paper). Making courses much shorter, should therefore improve completion. I have proposed dividing a typical 12 week university course into three "micro-credentials", and that these could be used for students in the Solomon Islands (formal paper in press).

Luz, Rolando, Salvador and  Sousa noted technical difficulties with computers, the internet, and course platform, as the most frequent reasons reported by students for pulling out. Lack of access due to computer problems, I suggest can be addressed by use of smart phones. Students can use the smart phone for readings, videos, and small interactive exercises, to keep them engaged.

Major assignments may need a more capable device than a smart phone. However, larger smart phones now have screens approaching the size of a small tablet computer, and can have an external keyboard connected. An external monitor can be connected to some smart phones, to convert it into a desktop computer.

Slow Internet access can be addressed by more efficient course content design, and packaging. Students could download large course components to their phone when they have high speed access to the Internet (for example free WiFi in cafes), and then read this material offline. Small frequent interactions, such as participating in a discussion forum, could be done over a slower, low speed connection.


Luz, M., Rolando, L., Salvador, D., & Sousa, A. (2018). Characterization of the Reasons Why Brazilian Science Teachers Drop Out of Online Professional Development Courses. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 19(5). doi:

Worthington, T. (in press). Blended Learning for the Indo-Pacific. In Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering (TALE), 2018 IEEE 7th International Conference on. IEEE. url

ps: I suggest IRRODL (and other AU publications) need to offer secure HTTPS web connections. IRRODL is giving away open access content, and so doesn't need a high security connection. However, insecure websites are now being routinely treated with suspicion by web browsers and other software. Recently I made the change with my own website. It was quick, easy, and free.

No comments:

Post a Comment