E-learning, e-teaching and e-motivation - the LLB Progress and Retention project


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Senimar presentation from the CDE’s Research and Innovation in Distance Education and eLearning conference, held at Senate House London on 19 October 2012. Conducted by Ormond Simpson.

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  • 1. This is a preliminary report on a project that the CDE ran this last academic year on the Laws Programme. However I want to background the report with a few comments on why we ran it. #
  • 2. I’m going to repeat myself (one of the privileges of advancing age) here about a problem in distance education. It is the problem of student retention and dropout. I’m going to take overall graduation rates as the best measure of retention. Not many institutions publish them but here are a few examples. Graduation rates for full time students in UK universities are 82%. Part-time students are 39%. London University International Programme are 44%. But distance universities are much lower – sometimes in single figure percentages. One of the most aggressively marketed distance institutions - the University of Phoenix - is rumoured to have about 4% retention. That university is of course making attempts on the UK market - there are now substantial profits to be made from what some US commentators call ‘Failure Factories’. There’s been a tendency to assume that dropout doesn’t really matter since distance students don’t have to commit very much and that in any case it’s a sign of our high standards. I’m not sure we have evidence for either proposition. There is evidence that dropping out of full-time higher education can be pretty damaging #
  • 3. This graph shows that students who drop out from full-time UK universities have a higher probability of depression, unemployment and (for women) suffering partner violence, than students who graduated or didn’t go to university at all. The subsequent cost to UK society of treating depression and paying for unemployment must be in billions of pounds. We can hope that dropping out of distance education has much less serious effects but do we know? Has anyone researched this? #
  • 4. There are three questions about dropout from distance education that seem particularly important to me. Why do distance students drop out? Is there anything we can do about it? Can e-learning make a difference? Now when you ask students why they drop out they give many reasons. But a few years ago I came across one very simple reason that still strikes me as valid. #
  • 5. Some years ago at a retention conference in San Diego I met a Professor Edward Anderson. # # Anderson believed that learning motivation was the key to student success # He said “The best predictor of student retention is motivation. Retention services need to clarify and build on motivation and address motivation-reducing issues. Most students dropout because of reduced motivation” Now this isn’t a surprising insight I guess – if you asked any number of teachers they’d agree on the importance of motivation. But it seemed to me that it applied particularly to distance students because of their isolation. #
  • 6. Anderson said something else about the direction of student support. Support can be ‘Reactive’ – waiting for students to contact the institution # # Or it can be Proactive – the institution taking the initiative to contact students # # #
  • 7. Anderson said that if you wanted to make a difference to student retention you had to be proactive. Students who need services the most refer themselves the least. It was no use waiting for students to come to you – you had to reach out to them. #
  • 8 And there is some evidence for proactive support using various media from postcards to phone calls and emails. This table is rather dense but hopefully you can see that there are gains in retention of between 5% to 46%. To take one example the 5% figure in the UKOU may seem small but it is the result of just one 10 minute phone call at course start and it’s cost-effective – it actually brings in more money to the institution than the call costs. #
  • 9. There are a couple of other quotes I like. One is due to Lubbock “ The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn.” and the other is due to Paul Ramsden “No teacher can ever be certain that their teaching will cause a learner to learn”. # So I began to wonder if in distance education we spend too much time on teaching and not enough on motivating our students to learn? Let me take an example from e-learning #
  • 10. You’ll be hearing a lot about e-learning at this conference. And it is true that the internet offers distance educators a whole host of new and fascinating tools for teaching, such as #x13 podcasts, Facebook, VLE’s, blogs, webinars, vlogs (video blogs), social networking, wikis, YouTube, pencasts, mobile phone apps, Moocs – Massive Online Open Courses and many other wonderful things. And so it’s easy to think that by putting more and better podcasts on your VLE or developing a new mobile phone app that we are improving the success of our students. But this isn’t e-learning. It’s e-teaching. E-teaching is what we do – e-learning is what our students may or may not be doing. It may be a mistake to confuse hoped-for-ends with the means. # Because i t’s surprisingly difficult to find good research studies which provide clear evidence that e-teaching is improving graduation rates . And of course developing such tools has a cost – quite a high cost in many cases, so # Do such developments increase costs without significantly increasing success? So I’m being critical of the idea that just focusing on teaching is the way to increase student success. But then what is the way to do that? I think that instead of e-teaching we should be focusing on e-support. And in particular on e-motivational support. #
  • 11. Now ok, motivational support has a kind of reputation... Pause.... But by motivational support I mean taking proactive contact, emphasising the positive in that contact, focusing on students strengths rather than their weaknesses, looking at their past successes, understanding their goals and their helpful resources. If you can help build someone's motivation they will often find ways of overcoming difficulties that might otherwise stop them. So is there such a thing as e-motivational support? #
  • 12. For example can we use email or text messaging to send messages to students to help them maintain their learning motivation? There are some theories of learning motivation that might help. #
  • 13. These theories are by various psychologists such as John Keller and his ARCS Theory of learning motivation, Carole Dweck with her work on theories of self, Martin Seligman and ‘Positive Psychology’ – the study of strengths and happiness (I’ve never found a photo of him looking happy for some reason). There isn’t time to go over these theories in detail but I’ll take Keller’s Theory as an example #
  • 14. Keller suggests that in order to motivate students to learn you need to # Get their Attention # Ensure that what you are doing is Relevant to what their needs # Enhance their Confidence in the process # So that they are Satisfied with the outcomes. # There’s some evidence from motivational messages designed by Lya Visser some time ago So how might Keller’s theory work? #
  • 15. There are perhaps two aspects of attention – getting it and keeping it #
  • 16. According to psychologists there are a number of ways of getting attention, most importantly through Incongruity – humour is the best example – Displaying empathy – difficult in text but stories and sharing personal thoughts can go some way Authority - displaying expertise but without pomposity It seems to me that sometimes distance writing seems to take an opposite line – it’s serious – humour seems to out of place it’s sometimes written in impersonal terms It sometimes ignores (for instance) that students may be feeling anxious about the material they’re trying to learn #
  • 17. Keller’s R is for Relevance which I think means that messages should be of immediate interest to students and short – the average length of a newspaper article – about 400 words or less. #
  • 18. The C in ARCS stands for ‘confidence’ so messages should come from someone who has academic standing. I was going to suggest that our messages in this project should come from the London University Vice Chancellor - or maybe even the Chancellor. If the Queen can jump out of helicopters with James Bond then maybe Princess Anne might lend her name to a few emails. But wiser counsels prevailed #
  • 19. The final letter is S for satisfaction. I wasn’t sure how that might work but we’ve designed a simple survey to test for that. #
  • 20. So we devised a series of motivational emails to go out once a week for the first 16 weeks of the Laws programme. This is the first 8 titles #
  • 21 - and this is the second eight. You’ll note that the topics aren’t the traditional ones about developing learning skills – I’m not convinced that there is a set of abstract learning skills that can be taught. Rather the topics cover learning motivation barriers – the sort of things that affect students into losing their learning motivation and make them drop out. So for example the topics are about organizing your study materials, finding your best study methods (we now know from psychological studies that some traditional study skills advice is not only not helpful but even counter-productive), what to do when getting behind (probably one of the biggest reasons for dropping out), making lists, losing motivation, managing procrastination (not overcoming it!), how to become a ‘lucky student’, manage study anxiety and so on. I can’t show you the complete texts but here’s a sample #
  • 22. This is the start of the first email which deals with Carole Dweck’s Theories of Self. It suggests that there are people can have two theories about their one intelligence – either that it is fixed and once its level has been reached no improvement is possible, or it is malleable and can be changed through effort. Note that the email is individually addressed through email merge. #
  • 23. The email goes on to say that the theory suggests that people who believe that their intelligence is malleable will do better because they won’t give up easily. The email then tries to persuade students to adopt a malleable theory. As psychologists say “People often overestimate the important of intellectual ability. Practice and perseverance contribute more to accomplishment than being smart”. #
  • 24. The email finishes by being signed by a person not an office, giving the references for the claims it makes and suggesting that anyone who wants to follow up the emails contacts the Information Centre. I can’t quote all the remaining emails but here’s another excerpt from one of the emails to give a flavour #
  • 25. This one is about catching up. Note that it’s not about Time Management because the student’s problem is not about managing their time – it’s about how to catch up when getting behind. In any case psychologists have shown that giving time management advice doesn’t actually work. So the email suggests some simple ideas about how to cut corners – it’s not the advice that teachers normally give but if it helps a student stay on course then it’s good advice. #
  • 26. So to summarise - you can have two students who experience the same devastating event – bereavement, illness and so on – and one will keep going whilst the other drops out. The difference may be their motivation. If we can indeed help students keep their motivation switched on, it may be that we can keep them going’ So I’ going to ask a question I asked at this conference last year - what are the barriers to increasing retention in distance education? #
  • 27. As my colleague Veronique Johnston says “The biggest barrier to increasing retention... ... are the attitudes in the institution itself” What does she mean by this? #
  • 28. It seems to me that there are 3 basic attitudes that staff in educational institutions can display to students: There are the 4x# Darwinistas – it’s survival of the fittest. Darwinistas believe that students dropout because they’re simply not intelligent enough, unmotivated or just lazy, and so it’s the role of staff to weed them out. Perhaps these are fixed intelligence theorists in Dweck’s theory? #
  • 29. Another attitude I think of as the 4x# Fatalistas- - they see their role as to provide the knowledge of a course. Students drop out for reasons beyond our control and retention is something we can’t do anything about.. Again perhaps Fatalistas are ‘Fixed Intelligence Theorists’. I think there’s a sub-group which sometimes appears amongst E-teaching enthusiasts (present company excepted!) - I call them the ‘Unwitting Fatalistas’. They want to add new and exciting technology to their teaching, perhaps forgetting Ramsden’s comment that you cannot be sure your teaching (or e-teaching) will lead to learning. They will say that they are giving students a high quality learning experience, maybe forgetting sometimes that the highest quality learning experience you can give a student is to pass their course. #
  • 30. I like to think there are the 2x# Retentioneers – who believe that you can do something about retention even if you’ll never achieve 100%. # They believe that whilst there will be students who drop out for good reasons, many students can be helped by proactive support. Retentioneers see their role as helping students be the best they can be. They will be proactive using whichever technology works the best in helping distance students maintain their learning motivation. Maybe they will be a new type of distance educator – not e-learning specialists, not e-teachers, but ‘e-motivators’. Finally I said this was going to be a report of the project – well that’s easily done #
  • 31 The project was very ably run by Tom Inkelaar as a pilot using a few students from the LLB Scheme B. I wrote the emails texts and Tom sorted out the technology of email merging and regular despatch of the emails. So far the pilot has demonstrated that it can be done but as yet there have been no statistically significant differences in progress or retention. We hope to repeat it with bigger numbers and see if we can get an effect. # Meanwhile I take refuge in the old saying “If everything you do works, you’re not trying hard enough” Thanks
  • 36. A couple of years ago the British Royal Marines were suffering a retention crisis. They were recruiting young men at great expense who were then dropping out of training. They called in a psychologist who discovered that the chief aim of the trainers was to weed out the unfit – to weed out the young men who wouldn’t make absolutely first class soldiers. The psychologist tried to change their attitudes into making the young men be the best soldiers that they could be. He claims to have had some success and as a result retention in the Royal Marines is now somewhat better. So my answer to what is the biggest barrier to increasing student retention is to agree with my old colleagues Veronique Johnston of Napier University #
  • E-learning, e-teaching and e-motivation - the LLB Progress and Retention project

    1. 1. ‘E-learning, e-teaching and e-motivation’- the LLB Progress and Retention project Tom Inkelaar and Ormond Simpson ormond.simpson@googlemail.com www.ormondsimpson.com 1
    2. 2. Graduation rates - distance education and conventional educationConventional education Distance education 2
    3. 3. What happens to students who dropout? - effects of dropout on full-time students in the UK Probability of: dropoutsProbability of suffering depression, unemployment and (women) partner violence, according to educational experience (Bynner, 2002) 3
    4. 4. Dropouts from distance education 3 questions…1. Why do they drop out?2. Is there anything we can do about dropout?3. Can e-learning make a difference? 4
    5. 5. Why students drop out the importance of learning motivation “The best predictor of student retention is motivation. “Retention services need to clarify and build on motivation and address motivation-reducing issues. “Most students dropout because of Professor reduced motivation”Edward Anderson San Diego Retention Conference 2003 5
    6. 6. Direction of support - reactive and proactive Institution StudentReactive student support – waiting for studentsto contact the institution for helpInstitution StudentProactive student support – taking initiative tocontact students from institution at particularcritical points 6 6
    7. 7. Proactive Contact ‘Student self-referral does not work as a mode of promoting persistence. Students who need services the most refer themselves the least.“Effective retention services take the initiative in outreach and timely interventions with those students.’ (Anderson, US) 7
    8. 8. Proactive student support – evidence Study Method Finding NotesRekkedahl Postcards 46% increase in  ‘82 Norway retentionCase & Elliot Phone calls 15-20% increase in 2 - 5 calls most’97 US retention effectiveVisser Postcards 27% increase in Small scale study‘90 UK retentionChyung Phone calls Dropout reduced from  ‘01 US 44% to 22%Mager ‘Telecounselling’ 5% increase in retention Cost-effective‘03 US 625% returnSimpson One phone call before 5.04% Cost–effective‘06 UK course start 460% returnTwyford Motivational emails 11.7% increase over  ‘07 Aus. controlHuett Motivational emails 23.4% increase over Significant at‘08 US control 0.5%Simpson Phone calls plus 18.9% increase over  ‘01 UK motivational emails control
    9. 9. “The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn.” -John Lubbock (1834-1913) “No teacher can ever be certain that their teaching will cause a learner to learn”. - Ramsden (2003)Do distance educators spend too much time on teaching and not enough on motivating students to learn? 9
    10. 10. E-learning or E-teaching? podcasts Facebook webinars VLE’s blogs Social networking vlogs Youtube wikis Apps pencasts MoocsEvidence that e-teaching via these media increase graduation rates? Or do they increase costs without significantly increasing success?
    11. 11. Motivational support? 11
    12. 12. Motivational emails? 12
    13. 13. Learning motivation theories 2 John Keller – ARCS Theory Carole Dweck - Self Theory Martin Seligman - Positive Psychology 13
    14. 14. Keller’s ARCS theory R = Relevance C = ConfidenceA = Attention S = Satisfaction Visser 1990 ‘Motivational Messaging’ 14
    15. 15. A = Attention 15
    16. 16. Getting Attention Use:- incongruity – eg humour*- empathy – eg stories, sharing personal thoughts- authority – displaying expertise - and addressed individually But everything in a message should be relevant to learning. *eg see ‘Flipnosis’ – Dutton (2011) 16
    17. 17. R = Relevance• - address topics that are of immediate interest to students at that particular stage of their studies• -be short – 400 words or less• 17
    18. 18. C = Confidence• - messages should come from someone with academic authority - use ‘I’ or ‘we’? 18
    19. 19. S = Satisfaction ?• A satisfaction survey 19
    20. 20. ‘Motivational emails’ ‘Study Tips’ – Introduction1 Are you ‘fixed’ or ‘malleable’?2 What can you expect from studying the LLB with theLondon University International Programme?3 Motivating yourself to learn4 Getting organised for study - a Funnel in your mailbox?5 Finding your best study methods6 Finding the time when getting behind.7 Getting organised - making lists8 “I’ve got those ‘why-the-heck-am-I-trying-to-study-blues….’” 20
    21. 21. ‘Motivational emails’ continued9 Survival Guide for You and Your Family10 Managing your procrastinitus11 Self-Discipline!12 Learning to concentrate on learning13 Are you a lucky student?14. ‘Study Anxiety Syndrome’15 Tactics In The Exam Wars16 ‘Don’t stop now!’ 21
    22. 22. Subject: Study Tip 1 - Are you ‘fixed’ or ‘malleable’? Dear OrmondAs I promised I’m sending you my first study tip. I hope youfind it useful!Recent findings1 in psychology suggest that how we think aboutour own intelligence or IQ is the most important factor in howsuccessful we are when we try to learn. Psychologists say thatpeople fall into two groups –•‘Fixed’ intelligence people – people who believe that theirintelligence is fixed at birth and can’t be changed by externalfactors or their own efforts.•Malleable’ intelligence people – people who believe that theirintelligence is not fixed and that it can be changed througheffort. 22
    23. 23. These beliefs affect how people learn, particularly when they runinto difficulties or fail an exam. People who believe that theirintelligence is fixed may work hard. But when they run intodifficulties or failure they tend to believe that they’ve reached thelimit of their intelligence and give up. People who believe that theirintelligence is malleable will see difficulties as a sign that theyneed to try harder. This is because they believe that effort willovercome such difficulties in the end. Your intelligence is not fixedWe now know that (despite what psychologists used to believe) thatintelligence is not a fixed quantity for life. It can be developed bypersonal endeavour.As psychologists2 now say “People often overestimate the importantof intellectual ability. Practice and perseverance contribute moreto accomplishment than being smart”. In other words the malleablepeople are right. 23
    24. 24. Malleability is the keyMalleable people don’t see something hard to understand or apoor grade as a comment on their basic intelligence. They justsee it as a sign that they need to ask for help and try again. Soremember – your intelligence is malleable. With effort andsupport you can succeed on this course. Good Luck!Ormond SimpsonDistance Learning Consultant, University of London InternationalProgramme1 Dweck, C. (2000) ‘Self-Theories’ Psychology Press2 Hoppe and Stojanovic (2008) Sci. Amer. Mind Please do not reply to this email. Send any queries to theInformation Centre enquiries@london.ac.uk To opt out ofreceiving these emails click here 24
    25. 25.  Catching up - Almost every student gets behind with theirstudies at some point. Life just happens! So here’s the world’sshortest guide on how to catch up - the 3S model•S = Skim. Sometimes when you need to catch up it’s ok to skimwhat you’re reading and just get a feel for it without reading itword for word.•S = Skip. Sometimes it’s ok the skip some material all togetherif you need to and if it’s not vital for the next bit of study.•S = Scrape. If you’re behind doing an assignment thenoccasionally it’s ok to aim to just scrape through. You don’t haveto do everything perfectly! Complete texts on www.ormondsimpson.com 25
    26. 26. Can we switch learning motivation on and keep it on using ‘e-motivation’?
    27. 27. What are the barriers to increasing retention?“The biggest barrier to increasing retention in an institution... ... are the attitudes in the institution itself”- Johnston (Napier University, Scotland, 2002) 27
    28. 28. Attitudes to student retention 1 The ‘Darwinistas’Students drop out because theyre not intelligent enough, unmotivated or lazy. “We’re here to weed out the unfit” Fixed intelligence theorists? 28
    29. 29. Attitudes to student retention 2 The Fatalistas Students dropout for reasons beyond our control“Students are doomed to pass or fail and there’s not much we can do about it” Fixed Intelligence Theorists? 29
    30. 30. Attitudes to student retention 3 The ‘Retentioneer’ Students most often dropout because of lack of proactive support“Help students be as successful as they can be” Malleable theorists? “E-motivators?” 30
    31. 31. The LLB Progress and Retention project•Pilot showed system technically feasible•102 students out of 2587 emailed with ‘motivationaltexts•So far no significant differences either way “If everything you do works, you’re not trying hard enough” 31
    32. 32. Apollo Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix:"Based upon the belief that learning is not a one-size-fits-allexperience, Apollo Technology developed the technology todeliver data-driven, personalized education tailored to theindividual.“Apollo Technology’s unique student data system collects andanalyzes individual student data, and delivers automatic just-in-time guidance that can significantly improve student outcomes.“ University of Phoenix graduation rate = 4% 33