We've been delivering a couple of the program courses already in Wikieducator, such as Facilitating Online. Now we want to develop a funding model that continues to support free open access to the course materials but also allows people to enrol as formal students, and ensures sustainability of the program.
We have already developed a funding model for Facilitating Online that starts next week, as a pilot. But alongside that, I want to find out more about experiences of students in open access courses to inform our future work.
How to turn informal students into paying enrolments
Over the last three or four years, this has been our experience with the course Facilitating Online:
- large numbers of people enrol as informal students, but few complete
- very few informal students pay to become formally enrolled students
- the facilitator spends too much time working with informal students as facilitator/mentor - the amount of time spent is not cost effective or sustainable.
- how to increase retention and completion;
- how to support informal students to become formally enrolled students;
- how to effectively support formal/informal student learning in a cost-effective and sustainable way.
- The popular open access courses that have been around for the last couple of years start off with large number of participants but these rates soon drop (Fini, 2009; Mackness et al, 2010). Question: Why is that? Is it a motivation issue or pedagogical (Siemens, 2010)?
- Students learn by making connections with each other (Siemens, 2004) but they still want support from facilitators/teachers in the online, learning environment, especially those who are used to using technology or working in an "open" environment (Siemens, 2010; Mota, 2010). Question: How do we support students to develop the appropriate/relevant digital literacy skills; to facilitate learning without increasing teacher workload (McAuley et al, 2010)?
- Facilitator/teachers use volunteers/fellow students to help support, mentor and/or teach other students (Downes, 2007; Couros, 2010 a. and b.). Question: Does this reduce the teacher's workload? How reliable and ethical is it to rely on other students or volunteers to teach students, especially considering the majority of students drop out from the "sharing" experience ( Mackness et al, 2010)?
- There are a number of models of open access courses whereby students can participate as informal students with the facility to enrol as formal students, under-going assessment and gaining accreditation (Blackall, 2010; Taylor, 2011). Question: How is this working in actuality? How many students in these open courses actually enrol as formal students? What are the barriers, especially in terms of process (Cormier & Siemens, 2010)?
- There are a number of funding models that are mooted to ensure sustainability of open access courses, including the "conversion" model (Downes, 2007; Wiley, 2007). Question: How many informal students do we need to participate and then enrol as formal students to make open courses sustainable, especially in light of the high drop-out rate?
I'd love to hear from anyone who has any ideas about this topic or is doing similar research. In particular, I'd really like to hear from educators who are offering open courses - what is your retention rate and how many informal students enrol for assessment and accreditation?