to Drop-out, Withdrawal and Non-completion Rates of
Adult Learners undertaking eLearning Programmes
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology
Christchurch, New Zealand
Abstract The problem of dropout rates in eLearning programmes has been argued over at length without any consistent conclusions about the degree of the problem, or a clear understanding of what factors contribute to learners dropping out, withdrawing or not completing eLearning courses. In examining the factors that affect attrition among distance online learners this paper focuses on the distinctive characteristics of mature adult learners undertaking part-time education by distance eLearning course for the first time. The available research suggests that attrition among mature adult online learners is affected by sociological, psychological, technical and cognitive factors, critical features of which are the notions of cognitive load and locus of control. This paper argues that first time eLearners often experience cognitive overload, (as described in Cognitive Load Theory), in the early stages of an online course and it is suggested that this is a likely contributor to high drop out rates, particularly in terms of those withdrawing within the first few weeks of the course start Keywords: Attrition in eLearning, eLearning drop rates, Cognitive overload, eLearning with adult learners, eLearning orientation |
The issue of student retention and completion rates in distance education have been investigated and vigorously argued over for at least the last seven decades (Berge & Huang, 2004). This discussion has intensified since the introduction of eLearning and its progression from the periphery of mainstream and earlier modes of distance education and training to a more central role, (Berge & Huang, 2004).
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