IMS Student Induction to E-learning - Summary
|The Current Challenge
Students who have a poor set of first experiences with their e-learning courses often become frustrated and dissatisfied, and are more likely to dropout. Likewise, students who engage early and frequently with their course content, faculty, and online peers in an effective and cohesive manner are well positioned to succeed. The SIEL group will develop and promote best practices in this area, as "poor retention would preclude the viability of online learning unless strategies [effective practices] to increase student success and control costs related to student attrition can be reversed" (O’Brien and Renner, 2002). As online courses and programs continue to grow at exponential rates and provide global reach, e-learning student completion, retention and persistence are areas of great concern to faculty and administrators. As suggested by Carr (2000) and O’Brien (2002), online student retention is one of the greatest weaknesses in online education. In a literature review conducted by Herbert (2006), several studies showed that the failed retention rate for online college and university undergraduates range from 20 to 50 percent, and that online course administrators believe the failed retention rate for online courses to be 10 to 20% higher than traditional classroom environments (Frankola, 2001; Diaz, 2002).
The number of college students who are participating in online courses and programs (some with significant global reach) continues to increase dramatically, despite the greater likelihood of student non-completion of course and resultant failed retention and persistence. For example, approximately 3.5M higher education students in the United States were taking at least one online course during the fall 2006 term; a nearly 10 percent increase over the number reported in 2005 (Allen and Seamen, 2007). And, international efforts to increase technology-enabled learning continue to grow in light of the attrition, retention and persistence issues associated with this form of learning. A study published by BBC News (2005) found that 75 percent of the 150 institutions surveyed across Europe employ computer-based learning as a significant part of most of their courses or plan to do so by 2008. While the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) commissioned a study (Universities Online: A survey of online education and services in Australia to assess online education in Australian universities (DEST, 2002). This study found that during a 5-to-7 year period, there was considerable increase in activity within universities in the use of Internet technologies for research, teaching, learning and administrative services, with 207 fully online courses offered by 23 of 40 Australian universities surveyed; and, sixty-five of these courses (31 percent) are delivered only by online mode. While the Korean Education Research Information Service (KERIS) reports that the adoption of e-learning at four-year universities is close to 60 percent. That is, e-learning initiatives are underway at 114 of the 201 universities in Korea, including the General, Educational, Industrial, and the National Open Universities – serving just over 1.6M students. In April of 2006, approximately 16,000 students were enrolled in the 17 Korean cyber universities. As of the first semester of 2007, a total of 3,600 e-learning lectures are being offered by the Korean cyber universities, a 34 percent increase compared to the first semester of 2005. While the overall enrollments have increased by 30 percent from 2003 to 2006.
|The Proposed Solution
The SIEL project group will develop and promote an “end-to-end” methodology for introducing e-learning students to the online environment, to include best practices drawn from literature, personal accounts and workshops (LTAC and other) for each student Introduction Phase (i.e. Expectations, Preparation and Induction). This methodology will provide a framework for learning technologists and e-learning faculty and administrators to address the quality and service needs of introductory adult e-learners while establishing a effective practices for recruiting, retaining and supporting student persistence. This document will serve as an active methodology for student introduction to the e-learning environment; and, will provide upon acceptance by the IMS TAB, will be maintained by an active IMS GLC Accredited Profile Management Group (APMG).
The Student Induction to E-Learning (SIEL) project group was formed in early 2008 under the direction of IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS GLC). The aim of this group is to develop best practices associated with student induction to e-learning, particularly in the area of mitigating the increased risk of post secondary student attrition (as compared to classroom) during this introductory phase of the student lifecycle. The importance of this work lies within the continued growth in elearning on a regional and global basis, and the impending shift from classroom-based to e-learning as the predominant post-secondary education delivery model by 2015. Increasing access to higher education through e-learning has been a success story over the last 15 years or so; however, the risk of increased student attrition associated with e-learning is signicantly greater than that of classroom-based education and is also perceived as one of the greatest weaknesses associated with e-learning, which poses significant institutional, societal, and individual consequences.
In response to the threats and weaknesses inherent in some e-learning programs, the SIEL project group developed an extensive SIEL Adoption Practice for application by institutions of Higher education (IHE). This adoption practice includes SIEL best practice matrices and a SIEL self-assessment, or checklist, for IHE who wish to gauge their current e-learning best practices against the IMS SIEL Adoption Practice.
With the goal of improving higher education student e-learning retention and persistence during the introductory phase, the SIEL project group intends to inform and guide higher education adminstrators, faculty, and e-learning practitioners who can use it as an institutional self-assessment tool. Starting with a review of the literature, the SIEL project group identified best practices, sorted them into six best practice areas (BPAs), and then sought feedback from their colleagues during international conferences.
For the introductory e-learning experience, beginning with advisement and continuing through completion of the first learning assignment, the BPAs are:
- Assessment and Communication of Expectations
- Recruitment and Advisement
- Learning Design and Organization
- Functional Technology
- Student Technology Literacy
- Non-Technical Support Services