Surviving the shipwreck : what makes online students stay online and learn?

16 Apr 2007

Although much is written about reasons why students drop out of online courses, little is said about what makes them stay. This article reports on an experiment whereby online students were exposed to a learning experience modelled on the US television series Survivor. Twenty-four students were put into tribes and allowed to vote one another off the island at the end of each week. Students who were voted out of their tribes, were still on the course, but could no longer rely on the support of their peers. The course had a very high dropout rate, and students reported that the experience was extremely stressful. Yet there were fifteen students who completed the whole course. The question is why? This article identifies and discusses three aspects that contributed to the success of those who completed: The game metaphor, the roles and competencies of the facilitator, and the affective dimensions of peer support in a non-contact environment.