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Why dropout rates are high for online courses and what is the solution

The learning outcomes and effectiveness of an online programme, however, is yet to be proven. The completion rates for LMS-based courses is not more than 4 per cent and the success of the graduates is even lower, as per an MIT study.

New Delhi |
April 25, 2020 2:38:59 pm
online courses, digital education, education news, digital certificate, The completion rates of online courses are not as good. (Representational image)

— Written by Meraj Faheem

It is 2020 and a lot of people are learning a great deal online — tech, design, hardware and more — via informal courses, YouTube or other platforms, rather than through formal institutional set-ups. Clearly, we are seeing an emergence of new learning habits that are driven by the desire to pick up practical skills. As more startups focus on finding relevant talent, the focus has slowly but surely shifted from pedigree to more tangible skills.

With the internet becoming a big giant school, where the students decide what to learn, where and when, the learning process has become more democratic than ever. The learning outcomes and effectiveness of an online programme, however, are yet to be proven. As per a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the completion rates for Learning Management Systems (LMS)-based courses is not more than 4 per cent and the success of graduates even lower.

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These low rates are credited mainly to the solitary experience that these online platforms offer. Adding to that is the quality of curriculum and programmes; it’s challenging for students to move ahead once they are stuck on a concept, or trying to take time out to come back to the course, losing motivation or due to changing priorities. Hence, they end up dropping out. The only times when students completed these self-paced learning programmes is when they needed a course completion certificate to submit in a college or office for a pending promotion, appraisal or grades to qualify.

But what makes these online courses tough to serve the purpose?

To begin with, any self-paced activity demands a lot of self-discipline (if you have a gym subscription, then you know exactly what this means). Then comes the motivation to finish what you started, which usually results from the progress you gauge. Most of the time, even if there is progress, it is too insignificant to retain the learner or encourage him/her to come back and finish the course.

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The lack of peer pressure, environment, sense of support and lack of a sense of loss (there’s nothing to lose if you quit) add to the long list of factors that contribute to making online learning less-effective, if not ineffective.

So, while the internet is a clear enabler, it is still far from achieving what a live teacher does. Thus, the need is to blend live tutoring and online knowledge together. The flexibility to schedule your class, choose the programme of your choice and participate in a one-on-one live interaction with a teacher can ensure desired outcomes. We will have to wait to see how things will scale in the larger
scheme of things and where this technique of programme delivery can be adopted.

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In this pursuit of replicating the success of offline, intensive classroom-based programmes with online platforms, it’s clear that traditional degrees will be the new age dinosaurs, that is, extinct.

— The author is founder of – India’s first coding bootcamp that offers intensive classrooms and online programmes

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