Distance course design and retention

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This presentation look at how distance courses might be designed to improve student retention. 'Supporting students at a distance' - 'www.ormondsimpson.com

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‘Course design and student retention’Ormond Simpson, Visiting fellow CDEwww.ormondsimpson.com : 

‘Course design and student retention’Ormond Simpson, Visiting fellow CDEwww.ormondsimpson.com

Student retention in distance education : 

Student retention in distance education Two ways to increase retention: Student Support Course Design

Course Design- possible influences on dropout : 

Course Design- possible influences on dropout Course workload Course structure Course assessment strategies Course content

1. Course workload and retention : 

1. Course workload and retention No link between students’ reported course workload and dropout (Crooks, 2005). But that’s: Counter intuitive Counter experience - possibly a methodology problem? Or the quantity and variety of concepts?

2. Course structure and retention (i) : 

2. Course structure and retention (i) Courses with high dropout were: Older Slower (less content-same study period) Had few TV and radio programmes Had no residential school Had few set texts - but student intakes may be different Woodley (1983)

2. Course structure and retention (ii) : 

2. Course structure and retention (ii) Analysis of an OU course with particularly high retention suggests ‘Flexible Study Pattern’ is important: - choice of material to study - choice of time to study - choice of assessment (Crooks, 2005)

3. Course assessment strategies and retention : 

3. Course assessment strategies and retention Formative assessment – first assignment does not count towards the continuous assessment. Replace the end of course exam with an ‘End of Course Assessment’.

Without formative assessment 1 : 

Without formative assessment 1

With formative assessment : 

With formative assessment

End of Course Assessment (ECA) : 

End of Course Assessment (ECA) Improves exam pass rate – 10% But issues of academic credibility? And there’ll be an exam some day… But there may be a future in online formative assessment for retention.

4. Course content and retention : 

4. Course content and retention Theoretical models Keller’s ‘ARCS’ theory - motivational model ‘Cognitive Load Theory’ (Sweller) - cognitive model

Keller’s ARCS theory : 

Keller’s ARCS theory A = Attention R = Relevance C = Confidence S = Satisfaction

A = Attention : 

A = Attention Getting students attention Keeping students attention

Getting attention : 

Getting attention Use: - incongruity – eg humour - empathy – eg stories (case studies), sharing personal thoughts - authority – displaying expertise But everything in a course text should be relevant to learning.

Keeping attention : 

Keeping attention - Readability – matching text to students’ reading skills

Reading skills and reading habits : 

Reading skills and reading habits Researchers used ‘Cloze’ tests (replacing blanks in text) on new students – many would have significant difficulties in understanding their course material. - 42% new students had lower comprehension than needed for courses - Students’ previous reading was newspapers and magazines - Datta and Macdonald Ross (2002)

Readability Scales : 

Readability Scales Automated Readability Index Flesch Reading Ease Flesch-Kincaid scores Gunning-Fog index SMOG index (simplified measure of gobbledygook)

Flesch Reading Ease scores-depends on sentence length and number of syllables per word : 

Flesch Reading Ease scores-depends on sentence length and number of syllables per word

Slide 20: 

Significant differences in readability levels between tabloid newspapers and UKOU courses - Moore (2004)

Open Poly of New Zealand course on communication : 

Open Poly of New Zealand course on communication The field of communication studies runs wide. As a discipline, it borders on academic specialities such as linguistics, psychology, media studies, cultural studies, sociology, philosophy, marketing, and business studies. Its diverse components include interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, workplace writing, organisational studies, and mass communication. It can, at times, be difficult to limit the scope of communication studies: it seems to involve pretty much most things human beings to together. This is an indication of the obsession in modern times with communication. As Peters (1999) notes, communication has been viewed as the solution to humanity’s diverse and profound troubles. How many times, for instance, during local or international conflicts have you heard talk of communication breakdowns, or of the need to open channels of communication? In this optimistic view, communication entails connecting with others, expressing our true selves, alleviating loneliness, preventing misunderstandings and conflict. The other side of the attention to communication in the modern world is a focus on the dilemmas and apparently intractable problems of communication. Peters (1999) points to the way that so much twentieth century humour focuses on human miscommunication, where humans are left dazed and lonely – gesticulating wildly, impotent, ridiculous.

Open Poly of New Zealand course on communication : 

Open Poly of New Zealand course on communication The field of communication studies runs wide. As a discipline, it borders on academic specialities such as linguistics, psychology, media studies, cultural studies, sociology, philosophy, marketing, and business studies. Its diverse components include interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, workplace writing, organisational studies, and mass communication. It can, at times, be difficult to limit the scope of communication studies: it seems to involve pretty much most things human beings to together. This is an indication of the obsession in modern times with communication. As Peters (1999) notes, communication has been viewed as the solution to humanity’s diverse and profound troubles. How many times, for instance, during local or international conflicts have you heard talk of communication breakdowns, or of the need to open channels of communication? In this optimistic view, communication entails connecting with others, expressing our true selves, alleviating loneliness, preventing misunderstandings and conflict. The other side of the attention to communication in the modern world is a focus on the dilemmas and apparently intractable problems of communication. Peters (1999) points to the way that so much twentieth century humour focuses on human miscommunication, where humans are left dazed and lonely – gesticulating wildly, impotent, ridiculous. FRE = 13.5 = Very difficult

Slide 23: 

The field of communication studies runs wide. As a discipline, it borders on academic specialities such as linguistics, psychology, media studies, cultural studies, sociology, marketing, business studies. Its diverse components include interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, workplace writing, organisational studies, mass communication. It can, at times, be difficult to limit the scope of communication studies: it seems to involve pretty much most things human beings to together. This is an indication of the obsession in modern times with communication. FRE = 30.5 = Difficult

Fonts : 

Fonts Times New Roman Arial Helvetica Courier Comic Calibri Cambria Brush Kumasi Pioneer Two groups of students were given exercise advice in Arial and Brush fonts. Students getting Arial text were more likely to change exercise behaviour than students getting the Brush text Herbert - Sci. Amer. Mind Feb 2009

Type layout - Justifying 1 : 

Type layout - Justifying 1 There appears to have been relatively little work done on course design and retention. Indeed designing a course for better retention rates is a complex concept since course design is intimately bound up with course assessment. In recent years in the UK the annual festival of punditry revolves around the question of whether more students passing the ‘A’ level exams means that ‘standards’ have therefore fallen. Thus the retention debate has tended to avoid questions of the difficulty of content and concepts in the course and concentrated on other possibilities for increasing retention such as course workload, course readability and course design and structure.

Justifying 2 : 

Justifying 2 There appears to have been relatively little work done on course design and retention. Indeed designing a course for better retention rates is a complex concept since course design is intimately bound up with course assessment. In recent years in the UK an annual festival of punditry revolves around the question of whether more students passing the ‘A’ level exams means that ‘standards’ have therefore fallen. Thus the retention debate has tended to avoid questions of the difficulty of content and concepts in the course and concentrated on other possibilities for increasing retention such as course workload, course readability and course design and structure.

Using columns : 

Using columns

Newspapers : 

Newspapers Different fonts Narrow columns Short paragraphs Justified – sometimes ragged right Many graphics Frequent subheadings and quote boxes Variable fonts colour and shading - all aimed at ‘Attention’

R = Relevance : 

R = Relevance Avoid redundancy Avoid ‘split attention’

C = Confidence : 

C = Confidence Why are texts largely anonymous? - could we use ‘I’ or ‘we’? Why little information about authors? should we ‘put a certificate on the wall?’

S = Satisfaction : 

S = Satisfaction Feedback to student - Hattie - most important is ‘self reporting’ – so a student knows how well (s)he is doing’ So use self assessment questions? put answers straight after questions keep questions short so students can see progress

Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, 1998) : 

Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, 1998) Transfer of learning Initial learning goes into the working (short) memory Needs to be transferred to long term memory

Transfer of learning : 

Transfer of learning Working memory Long term memory Learning

Three types of cognitive load : 

Three types of cognitive load Intrinsic – due to inherent difficulty of subject. Should be managed by e.g. ‘segmentation’ 2. Extraneous – due to way information is presented. Should be minimised by e.g. Ensuring relevance avoiding redundancy, not splitting attention 3. Germane – due to way info’ relates to previous info’ Should be maximised

Cognitive Design theory - increasing efficiency of working memory : 

Cognitive Design theory - increasing efficiency of working memory Change problem-solving methods to avoid approaches that impose a heavy working memory load, eg use worked examples. Eliminate working memory load due to having to mentally integrate several sources of information by integrating those sources. Eliminate the working memory load by reducing redundancy. Increase working memory capacity by using auditory as well as visual information under conditions where both sources of information are essential (i.e. non-redundant) to understanding.

Does Cognitive load theory work in distance education courses? : 

Does Cognitive load theory work in distance education courses? ‘Assessing Cognitive Load Theory to improve Student Learning for Mechanical Engineers’ - Impelluso,V. American Journal of Distance Education 23 (4) (2009) - claims increased retention and learning

Slide 37: 

How do we evaluate course design for retention?

Slide 38: 

Student surveys

‘Crash testing’ : 

‘Crash testing’

‘Crash Testing’ : 

‘Crash Testing’ Ask the dropouts: Q1. Please identify the particular point in the course (if you can) at which you decided to withdraw ………………………………………………………………… Q2. If you can identify such a particular point please try to say why that might have decided you to withdraw …………………………………………………………………… Q3. If your decision to withdraw was caused by a particular assignment then please state the assignment number …………………………………………………………………… Q4. etc

Variations in course retention : 

Variations in course retention MU120 W300 K224 60 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 100 70 % getting to exam % passing exam Sifters Heavy goings Fair Knock Backers 40 50 60 80 90 100

Barriers to retention-friendly text? : 

Barriers to retention-friendly text? Attitudes to study - study is - Darwinistas Retentioneers - Hard work - Enjoyable Serious - Humorous Painful - Exciting Exclusive - Inclusive Fatalistas

E-learning choices : 

E-learning choices Conventional media - Email - Computer forums - Podcasts - Video clips Social networking - Facebook - blogs - wikis - Secondlife etc

Slide 45: 

‘Learning value’ vs. ‘learning time needed’ Learning value relatively less Learning value relatively more Learning time needed relatively short Learning time needed relatively long Paper text Online text Computer forums blogs podcasts Videoclips Wikis Facebook ‘Use line’ Secondlife email ‘Learning time needed’ ‘Learning value’

Slide 46: 

46 ‘ Learning value vs learning needed vs cost Learning value of medium relatively less Learning value of medium relatively more Learning time needed for medium relatively short Learning time needed for medium relatively long Cost to institution ‘Use surface’

Slide 47: 

47 E-learning – the future “E-learning is a technological tapeworm in the guts of higher education” David Noble (2002) “The future will see a combination of traditional and distance learning rather than a replacement of traditional forms. “But the short history of the computer has provided us with many surprises, some of them even welcome.” Martin Trow (2002)

Slide 48: 

Thanks very much! Some other material on www.ormondsimpson.com

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