Alastair Creelman and Linda Renland-Forsman have written an interesting paper on completion rates in online courses:
Statistics are often used to reveal significant differences between online and campus-based education. The existence of online courses with low completion rates is often used to justify the inherent inferiority of online education compared to traditional classroom teaching. Our study revealed that this type of conclusion has little substance. We have performed three closely linked analyses of empirical data from Linnaeus University aimed at reaching a better understanding of completion rates. Differences in completion rates revealed themselves to be more substantial between faculties than between distribution forms. The key-factor lies in design. Courses with the highest completion rates had three things in common; active discussion forums, complementing media and collaborative activities. We believe that the time has come to move away from theoretical models of learning where web-based learning/distance learning/e-learning are seen as simply emphasizing the separation of teacher and students. Low completion rates should instead be addressed as a lack of insight and respect for the consequences of online pedagogical practice and its prerequisites.
According to the authors we should call in the HEROEs: Highly Empowered Resourceful Online Educators. Which means once and for all abandoning a consumerist approach to education applying a meaning-oriented approach.
Their conclusion is that the low completion rates of many online courses and in particular today’s mainstream MOOCs is not a credible gauge of course quality. We need to move the focus from a simplistic head count to developing strategies for increased interaction, collaboration and collective responsibility in online learning – HEROES could do the trick.
Alastair Creelman, Linda Reneland-Forsman (2013). Completion Rates – A False Trail to Measuring Course Quality? Let’s Call in the HEROEs Instead. In European Journal of Open, Distance and E-learning 2013/II.