Why do online learners drop out?

Why do online learners drop out?. This was a well timed article for me. We are just designing an online intervention and much of our focus is on the material.  It gives a nice reminder that the cost of not taking a little care over what a course is like for a participant to ‘inhabit’ can be a participant doping out of the course

manifesto for teaching online | part of the MSc in E-learning at the University of Edinburgh

I keep bumping into the  manifesto for teaching online | part of the MSc in E-learning at the University of Edinburgh.

It gets me thinking even from the title … am I a facilitator of learning or a teacher  [or educator or instructor] ?


For the last few years I have used facilitator of learning or something like that to describe myself.

Facilitation has boundaries, I set up some form of contract (more than just the paper) – with my learners, they have responsibilities and roles as do I.  (often there is a third party – the people who pay for or accredit what ever is being learned).  As a good facilitator I try to get the right amount of this contract explicit so that we are able to function well.

This much translates to the role of a teacher. My facilitation experience gives me a good understanding of what makes a good contract/boundaries.

So what do I think is the difference? I think it is the content expertise I bring. In my teaching I still use skillful facilitation but I also bring knowledge. My facilitation skills guide me in how to use ( and sometimes skilfully not use) what I know to help learners learn.

The idea of a teacher also suggests some from of group with shared responsibility.   Learning can be very individuated,  I might talk about what I learned or my learning. Teaching has the possibility to highlight the communal or institutional that might be in play.

Oddly enough I seem to prefer ‘educator’ at the moment …

[and to those who had a part in getting the manifesto together – thank you]


Responsibility in class …

I recently facilitated a hour long session for meteorology instructors from around Europe.

The session took place part the way through a week long conference. So I had had time to get to know people, and people to get to know me a little. The session was a very open exploration of what helps students get engaged in a class room. I decided to give the group an experience of facilitation so that they would be able to see what one possible to lectures might be, and to be able to reflect openly on what keeps then engaged and learning during the process.

At the end of the session I was asked what my plan was .. I expressed it as boundary conditions:

We have till 4pm, and we will work together on something – or experiment and play.
We’ll do something on learning activities and what is possible in the class room.
Working on the issues people raise
Giving people the opportunity to reflect on a Group experience as it happens.
Giving people and experience of facilitation to reflect on.
My plan is to ask the group what they would like to work on and then see what happened next.

I was hoping that this would give an experience of engagement and some of the other issues that might be raised.

People said they enjoyed the experience and  being given the opportunity to reflect in the moment on how they were engaging and learning. It also sparked some discussion about learning in the workshop forum.

One of the areas I reflected most on after the event was what it was like letting people sit with open questions. At times I would ask people how they were doing, and some would state that they were frustrated waiting for the answer or someone to say what should happen next. The group was working it such a way that honest disclosure and feedback was possible, and happening.

Some participants noted that I was encouraging them to be responsible for what happens in the “class”, I was not taking responsibility away from them; which was quite unusual in our classrooms.

Some resources on facilitation

I was recently asked for a list of facilitation related books that might be useful for a trainer.  Below are some resources. My caveat is that I learned more from reflection on expe4rince of working in groups and facilitating than reading.

Facilitation pocketbook – a small handbook with good tips and ideas. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Facilitators-Pocketbook-John-Townsend/dp/1906610088/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332230021&sr=1-2

Online resource on facilitation: http://oqi.wisc.edu/resourcelibrary/uploads/resources/Facilitator%20Tool%20Kit.pdf

Participatory workshops, Written for social development practitioners (so no power point) but applicable in the world of meteorological training. It is 21 lists of 21 ways to increase involvement in workshops. (by Robert Chambers) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Participatory-Workshops-Sourcebook-Ideas-Activities/dp/1853838632/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332229754&sr=1-11

Participatory decision making – this is a guide for facilitators working in group discussion and decision making http://www.amazon.co.uk/Facilitators-Participatory-Decision-Making-Jossey-Bass-Management/dp/0787982660/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332229754&sr=1-3

Visual meetings – how to work with flip chart and paper to increase participation http://www.amazon.co.uk/Visual-Meetings-Graphics-Transform-Productivity/dp/0470601787/ref=pd_rhf_sc_shvl3

Flawless consulting – this is more about business consulting, it thinks a lot about the relationships between client and consultant (trainer) and who is responsible for what. Helpful for people in training management roles http://www.amazon.co.uk/Flawless-Consulting-Guide-Getting-Expertise/dp/0470620749/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332229978&sr=1-1

Handbook of action research (and learning) – action research covers a whole field of learning from experiences. by doing http://www.amazon.co.uk/Handbook-Action-Research-Concise-Paperback/dp/1412920302/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332230600&sr=1-1

Online resources on action research – a good list is available from http://www.aral.com.au/

On becoming a person story of a psychotherapist who decides to work in a more person centered manner, an interesting reflection of how clients (students) and helpers (trainers) can relate for good change. http://www.amazon.co.uk/On-Becoming-Person-Carl-Rogers/dp/1845290577/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1332230112&sr=8-1

Do add to this list if you would like!