#Change11 #CCK12 Why do people leave online or networked learning?

Here is my response to Heli’s question on why do people leave the course (MOOC) in her comments to my previous post?

Why do some people leave the courses of MOOC? That is a question that requires a complex answer.

First, I think there are lots of emotional attachments when people are learning on networks, with some of the critical factors that would impact their “stay or go” yet to be explored. Based on my observation, many people would have difficulties in using technology in their formal learning, partly because of the lack of access, and mostly due to a lack of skills, especially when first exposed to the online environment. No one wants to look stupid, and so many people would be afraid to even post their writings publicly. This is a common issue, when learning online. So, the first challenge to overcome is: how to overcome the fear of being perceived as being “incompetent” in posting, commenting or communicating?

The second challenge could be a lack of motivation, due to the lack of connections, engagement and feedback when learning online.

The third challenge could be a feeling of chaos when exposed to a vast array of networks, and could easily be overwhelmed with the abundant information.

The fourth challenge could be the identity issue. Most people would find it hard to identify themselves in an open network, where their voices would hardly be heard, and so they might soon retract from participation and retreat to their own real life community, in order to re-define their identity.

Finally, the challenge due to a perceived threat on personal security, privacy and over-powering by the powerful others could easily diminish one’s desire to connect and network. Who knows who are on the other side of the network?

I still think many people may be more comfortable with the instructional approach face – to – face, and have more trust on the “authority figures – like professors” rather than someone who are raising their opinions or posting their beliefs with personal stories. I will have to re-visit some of the research findings to dig deeper into this critical issue.

How about your views?

19 thoughts on “#Change11 #CCK12 Why do people leave online or networked learning?

  1. Funny how topics like this keep coming back to life. I think there have been discussions about drop-out from MOOCs in every one of them, so far. I would like to add a fifth hypothesis to your list:

    People are attracted to MOOCs for the novelty effect, then leave when the novelty wears off.

  2. All of the above hypotheses sound very relevant, in my humble opinion. I would add another: the effect of having to wrestle with one or more of the above issues makes some people uncomfortable? It can turn into ‘working on me’ – figuring out my pressure points about how I learn (or do not learn), how I perceive authority and control, how I manage (or fail to manage) information and filters and flow. Moocs can be a lens for some pretty tough questions about oneself. Are we ready for the answers?

  3. Interesting ideas here. One more to add, this one specifically aimed at the #change11 MOOC (which has been the best MOOC I have experienced thus far, BTW). As interesting as I find it, I am challenged by how long it is. In many ways, I enjoy it as a “class,” though find its length more of a lifestyle. This would be fine if I had that sort of time, but other commitments can only be put off for so long. Perhaps that is why even semester-long courses are 13 weeks or so? This came as a surprise to me, as I found myself running out of steam (and time) near the holidays, after which I have struggled to again become more active.

  4. That’s a great point. Course duration is an important factor, as you said, especially when we are so “packed” with various commitments throughout the course. Thanks for your sharing.

  5. @Vanessa,
    I agreed. People come and go, when they like/dislike, whole or part, and so some of these “leaving” could be temporary. At times, they could just be staying in the edge of networks, lurking, pondering. Some may be wandering around the “edge of chaos”, with others never coming back, depending on their changing needs and expectations. Just wonder why! What sort of assumptions should we make here? Is “categorization” appropriate, with the complexity of learning?

    Why do some remain in the MOOC? Yes, that would be interesting to ponder! What are your reasons?

  6. I would agree with all of these proposals, but I wonder as an explanation

    The human learning machine or experience is truly not ready for networked learning yet.

    OL/N LE (on-line/networked learning experience) can be very challenging because there is so much information.

    Deciding what to study is Principle 8 of the Connectivism Principles put forth by Siemens and Downes in 2008.

    People have to want to study the material for their own interest and not because it is on the course curriculum.

    The challenge for us as educators is to overcome the obstacles put forth by the current human learning machine.

  7. What to study is a critical decision.
    Are you suggesting that there may be mismatch between people’s interest and the course curriculum? How to remedy that? How to overcome those obstacles that you mentioned?

  8. Pingback: Ethics of connectivism in #change11 « connectiv

  9. Hi John and all,
    Regarding the “leaving a MOOC” topic:
    one of the things Jenny Mackness and I touched on ever-so-briefly in our paper (http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1143/2086) was how psychological factors related to ideas of privacy, solitude and control might affect the perception of participation/non-participation and the idea of entering and leaving. I’m pretty sure White’s Visitors and Residents concept (see White and LeCornu: http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3171/3049) is one of the most developed in considering choices of participation in online spaces in this light.

    The idea of novelty, as Ken mentioned, is indeed also a very important consideration, especially if we looking beyond dismissing such interest simply as dilettantism. In the introduction to her book (http://literati.net/Gallagher/GallagherBooks.htm) on precisely this topic, Winifred Gallagher notes: “[T]he general human capacity for neophilia… is both a state, or transient psychobiological condition, and an abiding trait, or individual characteristic…. nothing reveals your personality more clearly and immediately than your reaction to new things over time and across many situations. …Neophilia arises from this dual dynamic of getting excited by something new and then getting used to it, which frees and perhaps even spurs you to search for the next stimulus.”

    In such light, perhaps consistent and ongoing participation in MOOCs could also be considered an expression of adaptation to what has become familiar. That participation in such environments allows or even requires a perhaps greater sense of self (asking “some pretty tough questions about oneself” in other words) seems to be where the developmental potential of any experiential aspect of learning lies, well beyond the topic, content or focus. I once described a MOOC as the “Outward Bound” (http://www.outwardbound.org/) version of online learning, which I still think is pretty accurate:-)

  10. Perhaps sometimes people enter with specific learning goals and leave when they feel that those goals have been met;
    – or when they learn from the course of other more independent routes to achieving those goals;
    – or conclude that the course is not meeting those goals and/or is taking up too much energy and time in order to do so;
    – or they just decide that those goals are no longer such a priority

    For me (dropping out between courses rather than in the middle of one – but it’s the same thing really) it was a combination of all four of these.

  11. Me too, Alan. I like your point about the too much energy (efforts) and time needed in order to achieve those goals. If you were the facilitators, how would you find these out? What would you do?

  12. Hi John, Actually I left a comment on your previous post (about scaling and autonomy) which may be related to this.

    In a small group, facilitation can be expected to involve a fair amount of “hand holding”, but just finding out what each of several thousand registrants in a MOOC want must be a real challenge. (Even just identifying statistical patterns can be a major research project.)

    Perhaps we need a different model.
    In large f2f courses there are often many tutorial groups with TA’s acting in place of the overall course instructor and maybe that would help here. But it also may be a bit too structured for the spirit of a MOOC (not to mention the amount of work involved in setting up and supervising the TAships). I speculated about the possibility of encouraging informal seminar groups (perhaps facilitated by something like a “ride board” where people identify their areas of interest and expertise) with mutual mentorship and “leadership” arising from some kind of “reputation management” system, but I haven’t thought about any of this very concretely so I can’t say I have any confidence that it would really work.

    But when all is said and done there will always be flow in and out – much of it based, as Ken said, on little more than idle curiosity. So I wouldn’t feel bad unless a lot of people seem to be actually dissatisfied.

  13. Hi Carmen,
    Yes, the exploration with outward bound provides novelty experience, with plenty of challenges to be overcome. I think a lot of us are especially curious when we are subject to an entirely new learning environment/space, such as MOOC (especially for novice MOOC), and so these take time for the adaption, as you pointed out.

    Instead of looking outward for social interaction, some inward retrospection would also help in understanding why people would like to stay away from the “crowd” or connection. For me, I would like to meditate and think more deeply about my vision, goals, and my desire of connections from time to time.

    How about this flow experience?http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/csikszentmihalyipowerpoint.pdf Have you found any ideas here that you could associate with in MOOC? I have now used to delay my judgement, and so rather than being too critical in the crap detection, I would concentrate in searching for truths and wisdom, based on imagination, intuition and creativity. This allows me to look at the “crap ideas, false or inaccurate information” from the author’s perspective, and then I could better understand what that crap means for the author.

    I don’t think that is an easy “thing” to learn, especially when most of us have been educated to discern ideas which are too idealistic and not easily implemented.

    How many times have we heard from people:”This won’t work!” or “Listen to me, here is my instruction, that is an order, just do it!”

    These sort of voices would quickly shunt our creative minds from thinking, especially when we are too emotional in response. This would also impair the conversation, and thus the relationship. Does it sound familiar at work, in study, in networks or communities? I quoted these as examples to illustrate why people often quit from conversations, sometimes because of a poor or negative experience in the past. This may be one of the hindrance in networked learning, when connecting with others, especially when there are conflicts in views, ways of doing things, or motives.

    A good relationship (with people – strong/weak ties) takes months or even years to build up, but could be destroyed in just one conversation.

    How about your experiences?


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