[Technology 1073] Re: Tryout periods

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nancy.friday at alphaplus.ca nancy.friday at alphaplus.ca
Fri Jun 15 14:03:10 EDT 2007


Nancy from Toronto here again in response to the issue of learner retention.
Recruitment and retention have been the focus of much discussion during the
distance delivery research we have been engaged in at the AlphaPlus Centre with
the four sites that have been exploring distance delivery.

Retention has also been a noted interest in what happens in short online courses
that we have developed and delivered as part of AlphaRoute for the past three
years. Our emerging and currently only form of new content for AlphaRoute this
year is online courses. Our courses are four weeks long. For the first two
years they were delivered in a discussion forum - Web Board (supported by an
external course web site) as part of AlphaRoute. This year we are offering the
courses in Moodle. You can take a look at the course topic list and external
course web sites at:
www.resources.alpharoute.org > Resources > Online courses for adult literacy

What we have found in terms of retention is that for the first two weeks,
students are gung-ho, and then we see a drop-off in week three that is sustained
through week four. Generally we have found that a third of the students that
enroll in a course complete it and receive a course certificate of

Interesting what you share David about a two-week period being perhaps the right
amount to try-out time.

I should note that we acknowledge there is a continuum of learning for us all,
and so for a student to take the step and enroll in an AlphaRoute online course
is in fact a learning step. Trying it out for a week or two to see how it works
and then not continuing is also learning. Committing to take the course and
complete the work to achieve the certificate at the end (and learning some cool
stuff along the way) is a goal for us. And in the world of demonstrating
literacy learning and a range of skills, can make for a great demonstration.
But we would like to think that our courses are so valuable to learners and
engaging that they will all move from start to finish. It isn't realistic that
they will though - because of that continuum of learning.

>From the stats and knowledge of the programs that the students enrolled in the

courses come from, the highest retention rates come from students whose
instructor has included the AlphaRoute online course within their instruction
and where students are in a computer lab at the same time taking the course. So
motivation and support (instructor and peer) are onsite. However, the course
facilitator is at a distance and does contribute to a motivating and retention
aspect of student support. The development of online courses in AlphaRoute has
not been done within a research project or model. We are learning as we go and
writing articles and sharing information as we learn. Our challenge at this
point is to focus on that three week drop-off reality and see what we can do
from the course content and development side to attempt to support learners in
sustaining their involvement past that drop-off point.

Any suggestions or ideas from the range of instructors and researchers
participating in this discussion are more than welcome!

Nancy Friday

"David J. Rosen" <djrosen at comcast.net> on 06/15/2007 09:01:41 AM

Please respond to The Technology and Literacy Discussion List
<technology at nifl.gov>

To: The Technology and Literacy Discussion List
<technology at nifl.gov>

cc: (bcc: Nancy Friday)

Subject: [Technology 1064] Tryout periods

Distance Learning Technology Colleagues,

Earlier this week, in response to a message Heidi Silver-Pacuilla had
posted, Holly Dilatush wrote:

"too many learners register, show up one week, then drop before/
without completing 12 hours/first episode. Follow-up (to attempt to
determine WHY) has been challenging -- guesswork more than documented
responses. There
are SO many extenuating circumstances."

For many adult learners, especially those who choose online options,
and for many reasons, we need to design/include/expect a "tryout
period" a short online learning experience -- perhaps two weeks --
sampling the material, process and technology used in the longer,
online learning. At the end of the tryout, participants can stop (if
they were experimenting with the medium, are not happy with the
content, can't make the longer commitment, or for any other reason).
Those who are ready to commit, can do so, and at that point begin to
be counted in the DOE-funded system.

Does an example of this already exist somewhere? If so, how is the
tryout period funded? (State and local funders and private funders
need to pick up the costs of this "tryout")

I believe we need the same sort of tryout period for teachers doing
online professional development. Does a model of this exist somewhere?

Your thoughts?

David J. Rosen
djrosen at comcast.net

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Nancy Friday
AlphaRoute Coordinator
AlphaPlus Centre (http://alphaplus.ca)
Telephone: (416) 322-1012 x.305
Fax: 1-800-788-1417
TTY: 1-800-788-1912
nancy.friday at alphaplus.ca