A Modest Proposal To Prevent MOOC Drop-Outs

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Here on the Brilliant Blog, we’ve been having a discussion about the high dropout rate common in online courses (less than 10 percent of people who enroll in MOOCs, or massive open online courses, actually finish, for example).

Here’s one way that instructors of online courses might improve the odds that their students will stick with it and do well in the class—provide them with a checklist. The following is an abstract of a research article by professor Terence Cavanaugh of the University of North Florida and his colleagues, titled “Using a Generalized Checklist to Improve Student Assignment Submission Times in an Online Course”:

“Online instruction, like all traditional instructional environments, requires learner self-control and proactive learning to construct knowledge and acquire skills. However, online students often fail to complete some components of their online work each week, damaging their overall academic progress in the course.

To assist students in completion of all assigned elements and submission of work on time, three professors at a public southeastern university implemented the use of a generalized assignments checklist to enhance student self-monitoring in their online courses. Data on the submission of assignments was analyzed for relative timeliness.

The results of this study showed a statistically significant difference between students receiving a generalized online learning checklist to the control group who did not receive a checklist. The experimental group showed a marked improvement of assignment submission timeliness, improving course satisfaction for students and instructors.” (Read more here.)

Readers of Atul Gawande’s wonderful book The Checklist Manifesto know that checklists can be an extraordinarily simple and effective solution to a whole host of problems. Maybe participation in online courses is one of them.

For those of you who’ve taken an online course: Would a checklist have helped you turn in your work on time, and maybe even helped you stay in the course?

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2 Responses to “A Modest Proposal To Prevent MOOC Drop-Outs”

  1. Jay says:

    No. Lot of take MOOC courses not like a college course but more of a seminar course. We also can’t meet the time constraint of a MOOC course.

  2. Mark Brady says:

    As someone who has designed online graduate psychology courses for a decade and a half, I can tell you first hand that as many people as possible meeting as many people as possible at least once in person, significantly improves retention.

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