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Today's Online Learning is a Mess

So, why persist...?

· eLearning

If you believe research and media reports up to 87% of overall online learning students fail to complete. In the case of MOOCs that number is as high as 97%.

Think about it. Billions has been spent developing online courses. "Everyone" agrees that online learning is the future. Ten years ago MOOCs were the source of much terror at universities around the world because they were afraid that free courses would be the death of their hallowed institutions.

Yet, with all that money, and all that brainpower, and all those resources wasted I would argue that eLearning has achieved very little.

Failure rate

Let's say the overall failure rate for online learning is 85% - a good estimate given the variability in the data.

Imagine if an airline had 85% of its planes fall out of the sky. You would be more inclined to get the train.

Or what if 85% of your bookings didn't show up at a restaurant. The restaurant would quickly become a convenience store.

For most university-run online learning, including MOOCs - government subsidies keep these courses afloat. Demand is high, and increasing but completion rates are near terminal.

Why do universities and colleges run online courses at all?

Answer: Money.

Universities in particular can charge high prices for these courses. Of course, they are often offered with lower levels of support than their face-to-face counterparts. Plus, they don't have to build classrooms or maintain campuses. Hence, lower cost and higher margin.

Universities like online courses because they cost less to run.

The biggest issue now facing most online learning providers is that poor completion rates are coming home to roost. The potential to damage their host universities' brands is immense.

So, what is being done about this?

Many online providers are investing heavily in better videos. "Let's hire a Hollywood / Bollywood director", they say. Or why not get a cricketer, actor, model, soap opera star...?

This has been tried time and again with the same abysmal result.

Mentors, too are often tried. The providers who offer email-based support and then respond to students days later are ruining the reputation of those who provide expensive, all-day every-day support.

Some providers even limit the number of times you can ask questions - and charge a hefty fee to ask more questions. Wow!

But even those who provide excellent phone and chat support / tutoring / mentoring find that some students use them, but really - most don't. Usage reduces over time and the students just fade away.

Newsflash: Studying alone is lonely

It's finally taken a while but a number of universities have finally worked out that doing many things alone is a miserable experience. Studying alone, one of the most miserable of all.

Who asks the questions you're afraid to ask? Who helps egg you on when the going gets tough?

Humans are such social creatures and historically, learning has been quite a social experience. So given all the technology, money and brainpower in the world and universities delivered a lonely, miserable experience consisting of hour-long videos and mountains of reading.

To be done all alone.

What could be achieved if people could be supported by their classmates as well as professionals?

What could be achieved if learning was predictable, interesting, fun and social?

What could be achieved if someone else in your class asked a question where you thought "I had that question too"?

What could be achieved if learning looked like Facebook, Snapchat or WhatsApp - apps everyone knows and loves?

What could be achieved if people could only Learn Together?

What a novel idea!

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