Why a simple question can fix one of your biggest problems

MOOCs have tremendously high drop-out rates. Way over 80 % of people that enroll never finish. But this fact is only a problem if we stick to the old way of thinking and misinterpret how E-learning works. Support them to do it instead. Here is the reason why you should, and how to make it.

In the old days, there was often barriers. One of the most common ones was that a limited number of seats were available for a course. But in the digital space, seats are not a scarce resource. Now you can enroll as many as you might like.

That is, also, what most MOOCs do.

A typical solution in the MOOC-space is therefore that anyone can start a course for free, run if for a while, and then a pay-wall evolves. Or; it does not evolve at all, as long as you do not want to get credits for it. MOOCs rarely have limits on how many to enroll.

If they drop out after a while; does it actually matter to you?

Well, if they drop out because they really dislike you and your course, that could be an issue. But if they drop out because they realize that your course was not perfect for them, would that actually be a problem? Is it not even good if they did?

This also means that spending big time on writing a great syllabus is not as important as its ones was. Your syllabus is now not as important as before.

Instead it is worth spending time on how to help them to drop out, as soon as possible. You do not want to waste their time. They do not want to waste your time.

And honestly speaking: How many students did even read the syllabus in the old days?

Then, how many, few actually, do you believe read it in the digital space?

If it is free to enroll and have a taste of something, how much time would you yourself spend on evaluating if you should click or not, before you click? In average you would just click, and decide later if you want the product or not.

That is, also, what huge amounts of MOOC-students do.

The way customers treat a system depend on how a system is created. And a system like the “MOOCs” create students that enroll without really knowing that much about a course, before they enroll.

It was expected that lot of them would drop out.

We also ought to remember that education is a “one-timer-product”. It is more similar to buying a house, or a car, than to buying lunch or something to drink every day.

But one-timer-products are complicated to evaluate beforehand, and people (us) don´t buy that many of them in life. We do not have much of experience on what to compare with.

Have anyone of us ever met someone that has taken more or less the same course twice, even three times, four times, but provided by different suppliers?

If you want to be blunt you could claim that we, when buying an education, are rather “unqualified” customers.

But it is not because we are dumb. It is because education is a seriously difficult thing to buy.

This is also why we tend to like the idea of tasting it a bit before we decide if we want it or not.

If it would have been possible for you to live in a house a year or so before you decided if you want to buy it or not, it is very likely that you would have utilized that option.

Few people buy a car without first trying it out on the highway for a while. There is a reason for it.

All this actually ends up with a situation where it honestly speaking is, from a student’s perspective, and even your own perspective as a teacher, far better to let everyone in, if you can, then let them on the way decide by themselves if they want to continue or not.

The point here is that students dropping out from a MOOC is not necessary a problem.

If you run courses in the digital space with this way of thinking in mind, it is nearly good that people drop out – as long as it is the right ones that drops out, and they drop out for the right reason.

But then there are also things you actually can do in order to help students find out as early as possible if this course actually is what they want, or not.

Just ask them a question in the beginning of the course. And make the question just as hard, or complicated, or interesting, or challenging, or easy, or fun, or crazy, or serious, as you want your students, and your course, to “be”.

If you ask them the right kind of question it will become a statement. Then they will know. It will implicitly tell the students if this course is the one that they want, or not.

It will also lead to a situation of you getting the kind of students you actually want in your course. The ones you probably also were thinking about already when you ones decided to do the course. There was a reason why you even created it, right?

Courses made for “everyone” is like marketing made for “everyone”: no-one will care. But courses made for “someone” can also become like marketing made for “someone”: someone will care. You, who happen to run this course, are the one deciding on who that “someone” should be.

When we ask people questions, we have a tendency of also telling them quite a lot about ourselves.

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