Online training courses have long been plagued by a high student drop out rate.
This issue keeps plenty of online teachers up at night.
It’s an ongoing challenge to keep learners interested, on track, and motivated to complete their courses.
And there are many strategic ways to do that….
For example, you can:
- Create more engaging course material
- Make e-learning more directly relevant to your students’ daily lives
- Appeal to different learning styles, or
- Incorporate learner-friendly Instructional Design.
Each of these approaches can certainly make a difference.
Many can actively reduce the drop out rate in your online training courses – over the long term.
But these strategies take time, and often involve competing for limited resources. It can be a real struggle to get organizational support to give your online training courses the revamp they may desperately need.
And in the meantime, that drop out rate shows no sign of slowing down.
So here’s something you can do right now.
You can encourage your students to contact you directly for help – before they increase your drop out rate.
It sounds so simple, but are you actually doing it?
Or do you assume that troubled students in your online training courses will automatically reach out?
Many of them do need help.
But they may hesitate to ask for it, because:
- They don’t want to bother you
- They don’t think they’re “allowed” to ask questions
- They think e-learning is a solo journey, and they’d better soldier on alone
- They feel that asking for help is an admission of weakness
- They don’t want to look stupid, and
- They think they “should” be able to work it out on their own.
Students who think along these lines are suffering in silence.
They need your help – urgently.
But they don’t know it’s there for the asking.
Before long, these students will decide that online training courses are just “too hard”. So what they do next is no surprise. They feel overwhelmed, alone…
And they become another statistic in your drop out rate.
So for many students, it’s a game changer to know that help is available in their online training courses.
By encouraging questions, you open the door to communication.
You make it possible for them to ask for help.
But I can hear you groaning in protest…
Won’t this lead to an avalanche of student email?
I worried about this initially, too.
The last thing I need is 100 more emails landing in my Inbox.
But I’ve found that being more approachable hasn’t led to a noticeably bigger workload in any of the online training courses I teach.
The students who already email you four times a day with questions will do that anyway. They tend to be either high achieving, or overly anxious, and they don’t need an invitation to contact you.
But what about the adult learner sitting alone with her computer at 11.30pm after a long day at work?
She’s hit a road block with Assignment 2.
It’s due next week, and she’s completely stuck.
She feels frustrated and panicky, and from here, she’s likely to either:
1. Give up, stop engaging with the course and eventually drop out,
2. Remember your welcome email where you directly invited her to “Just ask if you have any questions”.
She sends you an email, your reply solves her problem, and she gets back on track with her work the next evening. She feels reassured and supported.
She takes another step towards the course finish line.
And that student-saving email took you about 30 seconds to write.
I’ve found that moving students past obstacles and towards the end of the course hasn’t added significantly to my workload.
But any kind of time investment takes some serious justification, I know.
Anyone who teaches online training courses already has more than enough to do.
And here’s why.
When you encourage direct contact with you, you create happier students who feel they’re being heard and helped, rather than abandoned and ignored.
The finish line comes back into focus for them, and that results in a lower drop out rate.
So try asking learners to contact you with their questions.
Add a simple sentence about your availability to student emails, announcements and any other high traffic areas of your Learning Management System.
When at-risk learners know there’s a safety net in place, they have more options than to drop out.
You can help make sure they know that.
[This article first appeared on eLearning Industry.]