Five Reasons Why Online Courses have a High Dropout Rate

He who is afraid to ask is ashamed of learning

Many organizations, in an effort to make it easy for their employees to receive training, invest in developing eLearning courses and host them on their learning management systems. However, very soon they realize that the employees, who respond well to classroom training sessions, do not necessarily have equal success with online training. What could the possible reasons be?

Research has been conducted to understand the reasons for non-completion or dropouts by adult learners from the online courses. This research was conducted primarily on courses offered by universities covering independent as well as corporate learners. The findings are equally relevant to the corporate eLearning context.

Here are 5 primary reasons that seem to be responsible for the high dropout rates in online courses, be it in universities or in corporate organizations.

Lack of Officially Allotted Time for Online Training:

If employees are to attend a classroom training program, they get a signed mandate from their immediate manager. However, there is usually no such provision for online training sessions. Employees still have to fulfill their regular responsibilities and need to meet timelines. It needs a high degree of motivation and self-direction to squeeze time for eLearning, which is not easy when no time is set aside for this purpose. In all probability eLearning eats into the employee’s personal or family time and acts as a deterrent.

Lack of Internal and External Motivation:

In face to face training programs, there is an opportunity to personally interact with the instructor as well as with peers. Employees might also get a chance to visit another city or place which by itself could be an intrinsic motivational factor. If completion of a course earns certification or reward of a bigger role, it would be an external motivational factor. If an employee sees no obvious benefit in devoting his time and effort to a task, he is very unlikely to be motivated to complete it. It can’t be truer in the case of online courses. After all, he has his regular job to do, and he has his deliverables and work pressures to attend to. He needs to have a quantifiable reason to take time off to pursue online training. In this context, the importance and significance that an organization, and in particular the employee’s immediate supervisor, accords to the scheduled training is very important. A one-off email mentioning about the training program is not sufficient. Regular follow up by immediate managers on the progress made makes a lot of difference.

Problems with Technology:

Internet connections can be slow. There may be browser compatibility issues. Courses may be accessed only at office locations and employees may not have the freedom to login from any other location. Sometimes, there may be login issues, or password issues which if not addressed immediately, lead to loss of interest among the users.

Poorly Designed Courses:

Online courses need to be designed keeping in mind the unique aspects of self-directed learning. Classroom training materials cannot automatically function as eLearning courses. You need to apply learning design principles and have a balance of various learning objectives based on the course requirements, profile of learners and the objectives of the course. Poorly designed courses fail to capture the imagination of learners leading them to abandon the course mid-way.

Absence of Support or Guidance from Instructors:

An online training program can be impersonal and monotonous, if there is lack of external support and interaction for the opportunity to toss ideas and queries. Merely uploading courses onto the intranet or LMS is not adequate. There is a need for a dedicated staff member who can act as a coordinator or facilitator who responds to user queries and forwards them to the appropriate SMEs for responses. An opportunity to interact and engage in discussions with individuals enrolled in the same course and with the subject matter experts or training managers responsible for the content of the course is essential.

How do employees respond to online training in your organization? What are the efforts taken to increase registrations and reduce dropout rates in online courses in your organization? Do share your experiences.

Motivating your Employees to Take up eLearning

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Written By

Aruna is Content Developer for CommLab India and works closely with the internal team to develop resources and share in-house knowledge with a larger audience through the company’s website.

Tags: eLearning Implementation, Online Courses, online training in organization, reduce drop out rates in online course
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