First, what are we measuring it against? We could compare online and on-ground success rates. However, that would require us to define success. Something we will need to address in a few (or, more realistically, a few dozen) blogs in the future.

For now, let’s make things simple and define success in university-level learning as completion rates. (I’m sorry to say that making it simple by using this definition is very popular approach.)  Education is a success if a student enrolls in a course (online or on-ground), participates through to the final lesson, and earns a passing grade. Easy, right?

Actually, it is an easy calculation, and it’s pretty accurate. Students are very effective at telling us when they’re unhappy with their educational experience. They just drop-out. And presto, we have a completion rate.

It gets less easy when we ask: “Why does a student choose to drop-out?” And go by further asking: “How do we design courses so students will want to stay to the very last lesson?” Those are the million-dollar questions.

Let’s take a step back from the abyss known as drop-out rates and consider some good news. Actually, it’s very good news that folks are asking questions about drop-out rates. We are finally moving away from statements like: “Some people aren’t meant to be college students.” We are finally realizing that through statements like that we are really saying: “We are unable to help some people learn.”

Yes, the drop-out rate among college students is a failure rate. Universities are failing to teach people.

Now let’s do something about it.