More recently I have also done a few online courses, some of which I have completed and others that I haven't. It hasn't made a difference to me if they were free or if I had to pay a fee. At this stage of my life I am not looking for qualifications but rather to learn how to do specific tasks or to broaden my knowledge in a field I am interested in. I am beyond the age of needing to be spoon fed or forced to study.
Creating Online Courses
Based on our experiences as users of online courses, my husband Dave and I created an online course for our ADHD business. We offer the first module free and then charge a fee for the remaining 11 modules. We see it as a way to reach more families who are unable to attend our face to face courses and workshops.
We have also opted to give participants 6 months to complete the course and they can start and access the course at any time. Prior to setting up the course we did a survey of our database to see if there was any interest and we were encouraged by the response. Our course includes a video for each module, hand outs, supplementary documents, online quizzes, forums and assignments.
What has our experience been?
The most surprising thing was the number of people who signed up, paid the fee and have not accessed the course even once in 6 months. These are mostly Teachers and Medical Professionals.
We gave 6 people free access to the course as gifts to teachers and parents in lucky draws at workshops that we did. After expressing great excitement at the prize, none of them completed more than the first module and most didn't access the course at all.
We also offered Parent Bloggers the opportunity to do the course free and in exchange blog about it. Three bloggers took the opportunity but gave up after a few modules.
On the positive side, when we actively marketed the course, the number of sign ups increased and people did not find the course expensive. They loved the content and participated actively in the forums ... until they lost interest. Yes, people with ADHD do tend to get bored easily but this seems to happen in most online courses.
Charging for a course is not an issue.
What have we found difficult?
We did not have a large marketing budget and because it is a niche market with no formal qualification at the end it was more difficult to sell.
Managing any online course is a great deal of work. Managing one that does not have fixed start and end dates is even more difficult. Forums need to be constantly moderated, assignments graded and questions answered. Keeping track of who is doing which module is not always easy as questions are asked that relate to modules that the student has not yet got to.
Most of our participants live in South Africa and do not have fast internet access. Many have limited technology skills and have not had previous access to online learning opportunities.
How does our experience compare with other organisations?
At the end of this article is an interesting infographic which discusses The State of Online Course Creation. The difficulties seem to be universal to the Online Course Industry and also Correspondence Course providers.
Students struggle without classroom interaction and support.
Both online and correspondence courses require great amounts of self discipline and motivation.
Many schooling education systems rely on rote learning so students have not learned how to learn independently.
The reasons for signing up for courses are based on impulsive decisions rather than exploring the curriculum and ensuring that the content will be valuable. For those who want an internationally recognised qualification to enhance their careers it is vital to check the credentials of the course creators carefully.
A big difference between online courses and correspondence courses is that with correspondence courses you are not restricted to internet availablity and the correct device, computer, tablet or smartphone, to participate in the course.
We live in an instant gratification society. We do not want to spend time learning facts that are not of immediate relevance to our work or lives. We have a problem and we want it solved as quickly and simply as possible. There is so much information freely available online that committing to a full course that has more infomation that we need is a waste of time and money.
"I have one of the best jobs in academia. Here's why I'm walking away." provides some interesting insights into university / college education and why they are failing to provide quality education.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic either as someone who has done an online course or who provides online courses.
Please include attribution to http://www.firepolemarketing.com/blog/ with this graphic.