Learning Design for Student Retention

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Martin Weller Jitse van Ameijde Simon Cross


Student retention is an issue of increasing interest to higher education institutions, educators and students. Much of the work in this area focuses on identifying and improving interventions that occur during the presentation of a course. This paper suggests that these represent only one set of factors that can influence student withdrawal, and equally important are design based factors that can aid retention throughout the course. The main research question addressed by the paper is what design-related factors impact on student retention. An analysis of student withdrawal at the UK Open University conducted by the researchers produced a synthesis of seven key factors in the design phase that can influence retention. These factors have been given the ICEBERG acronym: Integrated, Collaborative, Engaging, Balanced, Economical, Reflective and Gradual. Examples of how these factors can be implemented are provided, and conclusions focus on how the model has been embedded in the module production process at the Open University.

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